Christmas, in my books, is about two things: family, and food. And to be honest, the swing is probably 40-60 in favour of the latter.
Really, I think the two are quite closely linked. You build your favourite food traditions with the people who, year on year, you share the holiday with. You bake with them, eat cheese with them, fight over the last mince pie with them. Sometimes you even offer them the core of your Terry’s chocolate orange. It is Christmas, after all.
Everyone has their own family classics – the chocolate yule log, the retro prawn cocktail, the boxing day curry – and when you spend every year in that glorious bubble of Christmassy comfort, it’s easy to think that your way is the right way – nay – the only way. I certainly thought so. But this year I’m heading into the unknown: not only am I spending the festive season with a different family, but also in a different country. I’ll be skipping almost every foodie habit I’ve spent the last 21 Christmasses sinking into. Instead, I’ll be sinking my feet into some Canadian snow, and my teeth into some much-loved (though unfamiliar to me) foodie favourites of my boyfriend’s childhood.
Rather than being sad to miss my own rituals of food and drink (there’s always next year!) I’m actually really excited to dip into someone else’s. So even though I’m jetting off, I’ve thought about what makes our Christmas at home. A list of Tann family staples: all inherited from my parents, siblings, and those chaotic evenings between the tree and the fireplace, cross-legged on cushions and reaching over the coffee table…
- Terry’s Dark Chocolate Orange – Because original just won’t do.
- Colman’s packet bread sauce – You could make a delicious sauce from scratch, but this is what we know and love. Plus, on Christmas day there are a thousand other things to do – any opportunity to cut a corner should be taken!
- Panetone – Thank you, Italy.
- Ikea ginger biscuits – They do these enormous red tins of crunchy little ginger snaps. They are truly wonderful and we buy them every year.
- Onion Marmalade – A more recent ritual: I’ve been bullied (though really I’m more than willing) by my siblings and their significant others into making a few jars of red onion marmalade for the last few years. It has drastically changed the cheese board game. (And you can buy the almost-as-good equivalent if you look around).
- Pickled onions – A more ancient onion essential in our Christmas cupboard, and my mother’s sacred task. The months of waiting for those jars to be ready are oh so long…
- A good stinky brie – My favourite of all the cheeses I reckon, and wonderful when scraped across a poppy seed cracker.
- Camembert – For baking. A wheel of this, baked in the oven and dipped into with celery sticks! You can’t beat it. And another amazing use for onion marmalade. (Honestly. Try it.)
- Mulled wine – An obvious classic.
- Mum’s Mince Pies – Last but far from least. Homemade filling, lots of brandy, and topped with a pastry star and a little sugar… These, I must say, will be missed this year.
Merry Christmas and happy feasting everyone. May your stomachs be stuffed with the things you love!