Like most people, I have a love-hate relationship with time of the year. It’s no different this year and, for some reason, I’m “feeling” this week a bit more than I usually do. Perhaps it’s because I am at a stage in my life when I, and many of my contemporaries, have to confront the frailties of life, and no more so than right now. It was fifteen years ago, this week that I received a call to tell me that my mother, who had been in hospital for some weeks, but who had been doing well, had taken a turn for the worse. I should go home. I sought a second opinion and sent Sister Tutor, mother of Good Friend on a recce.
The verdict: I had to go. In less than twenty-four hours, the ticket was booked, and I was at her bedside; she was in a coma and had only one moment of semi-consciousness during which she realised I was there before she slipped back into oblivion. In the next twenty-four hours, guided by Mum’s Living Will, the most important and unenviable family decision had to be taken and communicated to the resistant medical staff. That task that fell on me.
Mercifully, her time was nigh, and it was not long before we got the news that she had slipped away, thirteen days before the end of the first millennium.
Much of what I cook over Christmas is based on what happened in my childhood home and I love the menu planning and cooking of things we don’t eat at any other time of the year: turkey, Christmas mince pies and shortbread.
Although my mother and I were not close, it’s the time when I most wish I could ask her advice, and it is from her that I learned the basics of preparing and cooking the Christmas turkey: forcemeat (pork) stuffing in the crop and she preferred a chestnut stuffing for the breast cavity. I recall we only had it a few times – when she could find chestnuts, or they were “sent out” (from the UK). I also learned from her, and before I discovered the trick of including a layer of stuffing between the skin and the breast, to start roasting the turkey, as she used to say, “on its head”, i.e., on its breast.
As much as I enjoy the cooking, I also get a kick out of the table and the tree. This was last year; I’m still deciding what this year’s will involve…
Something I shared with my mother was a love of swinging; as a child, I’d much rather swing than slide or see-saw, and it was Mum who taught me how to use my legs to swing higher and higher and higher and even higher, until it seemed that the swing would do a 360º loop. I’d lose myself in daydreams: I still love swinging, and when I see a swing that will hold an adult’s weight, I’m in heaven.
Now, one thing that always challenges me, whether it be Christmas or any occasion, is dessert and if our guests offer to contribute to the dinner, that’s what I ask for. Of puddings, I’m generally not a fan, which shows: dessert recipes are few and far between on this blog. For Christmas, Mum would inevitably do apple pie and a trifle. I did love her trifle and I confess that I have never, ever made a trifle and a good trifle is hard to beat. Although I confess to being fond of the odd chocolate mousse, crème brûlée, and a good old malva pudding, desserts, I can take or leave. Usually the latter, and at this time of year, I resort to Christmas mince pies and the ubiquitous shortbread already mentioned…
So, as this week comes to an end, and as I reflect both on the year that’s gone, I’m also thinking that this blog is nearly two years old and has been so much more fun and rewarding than I ever imagined. I have come across amazing people and blogs; some that have new posts every day – I wish I could read them all, every day. Then there are those bloggers that post less frequently and if I’ve not seen one of their posts in my reader, I wonder why. On one such was Belladonna Took and, serendipitously we had occasion to be in Johannesburg at the same time, and we spent a wonderful few hours having a proper natter over a cup of tea. I am grateful, not just to this community, but to each and every one of you that takes the time to read Fiona’s Favourites.
I wish you all well over the festive season, and strength in the challenges you face – at this time of the year – and for 2016. Right now, I’m looking forward to having time away from my day job – for another two weeks!
Note: this post was written, partly, as a contribution to Share Your World – 2015 week #50
© Fiona’s Favourites 2015