My own imperfectly delicious mince pies…
It is time now to explore and exonerate you, to devour and venerate you, to eat you up, digest you down, and inwardly ingest and digress on all that you are to me…
Christmas food is feast and I can feast upon these words too, calorie free, yet still savoured deliciously and selfishly, gobbled up again and again, and all this with no widening girth, no indigestion or regret, a word diet eaten and repeated in the best possible way…
Food, when you listen to it, tells stories… and Christmas food harks us back to history, hyperlinked to a past, long ago forgotten, although eaten and excreted by our own ancestors.
Pick over archaeological sites and find remnants of millennia old meals of bones and seeds and cooking pots. And now pick up your fork and eat a Christmas meal today to ingest a more recent history, albeit more quietly and neatly.
In my Westernised world at this time of year I am warmed through by winter spices in pies, puddings and mulled wine. They are the devices that have travelled down time and along trade routes, carried on beasts of burden through deserts and sent in ships across seas to enliven the dull winter diet of my pale historical counterparts here on this island land.
Each pie, each pudding, and each component on my Christmas plate has a history, a fascinating story of currency and enrichment underlying the aroma and flavour which has been tasted by so many, through so much darkened winter time.
Then we marry this history with our own recent traditions, of coming together to celebrate Christ’s birth and the ensuing mercantile madness of gifting and wrapping and eating to excess, so that we fall in to a snoring afternoon sleep after lunch on the 25th of December, full as we are, of thousands of Christmas calories.
And we have our social and cultural traditions and create our own intimate ones too… I make mince pies and snowballs to prepare for the big day, and then eat ham (cooked in cider on Christmas eve) along with my turkey on my Christmas plate. There is then a long pause of several hours before Christmas pudding is eaten. Then what little room is left in my stomach later that same night, is filled with tinned salmon and cheese. It is the comforting ritual of my Groundhog Christmas, to be repeated without erring or swaying from the pre-destined foodie plot of many previous eating years.
Before we get to feasting, we must literally prepare and over many years I have learned to do this slowly, languorously and easily, completing each component in turn, relishing the gorging gratification to come, by setting out my laden larder in advance. Mince pies are made then, stuffing done now, things bought in readiness and stored in order, all components waiting for the blazing heat of an oven for their moment of gourmet glory when they are all bought together to celebrate and complete the ritual on the plate.
So Christmas food to me is a blandishment as well as nourishment; it is a sign of love, and lore, it is history and culture. It is a wanted necessity, as well as a glorious luxury. So there it is, as always with me, that strange dichotomy of love and difficulty. Because my friend, you know that I have a complicated relationship with you, as I do with just about everything in my life.
And there I was a few nights ago, quietly cursing you… You see I was up to my elbows in a foodie fuddle, flinging flour around the kitchen in the name of creating the most perfect mince pies. Blithely tying on my apron and feigning Domestic Goddessery in my Christmas kitchen, it was instead, all mess and stickiness…
But I persevered: I experimented, added, stirred, chopped and kneaded. I rolled, cut, then filled, and finally there was the tenderly triumphal moment of committing my precious labours to the waiting oven.
They weren’t perfect those particular pies, but oh my goodness, they were delicious. Friends had pie-gasms whilst consuming them and went silent for seconds of ingestment and wonder; whilst I on the other hand, experienced the smuggery of creation, of earth mother provisioning and the satisfaction of an empty plate, with a just few forlorn crumbs left as the legacy of pies past.
I love Christmas cooking and have my big day down to a tee, tying together all my provisions and preparations onto one plate of perfection, served with relish and a flourish and on the same old Christmas crockery that we air for one day every single year.
And then I pay the price with indigestion and tightened clothes and extra winter fatted weight. It’s not just about the Big Day, but the Christmas build up, with chocolates never more than 2 feet away from reach and Christmas dinners, lunches and buffets to be feasted on and quietly, farted out…
You would think that after all my time on this planet, with all those Christmases under my gut bending belt, that I would remember; yes, you would think that my stomach would remind my brain that such fullness is disastrous, yet in my stomach also lies my heart, so the stomach says nothing; it just senses survival and suggests I keep eating and savouring and so simply stores all the nourishment as fat for a long winter famine that will probably never arrive.
So as my gastronomic voyage through Christmas Food comes slowly to an end, and as I boast of plenty and excess, I now want to give thanks for all that I have, which is in every way so much, when I appreciate that there are many who have so little. So I give some food away too, so that other humans and animals may also have a feasting festive Christmas, in what ever place they may be in head, land or heart.
For food, be it Christmas or of any other sort, is love to me and love is always meant to be shared.
With love and burps…
PS: As a Christmas Gift, I’m sharing the gifts of my writing and learning to entertain you, make you think and to deepen the Christmas experience in my capsule ebook. A Peachey Christmas is a collection of (previously published) blogs along with new material, gathered into one, gorgeous Christmas capsule… All you need to do to claim your free electronic copy is to fill out a few details here and then it will wing its’ way back to you.