cooking lots. Of course. I understand festivities and feasts very well, but I am ambivalent about Christmas. Being Jewish means not believing in Christ, so the festival that celebrates the birth of the person who is perceived by Christians as being the son of God leaves me less than wholehearted. Even though I am all in favour of good will towards all, which is a central message. I cannot do a Christmas tree, although in recent years I have relented and have a big bowl of Christmas balls on the hall table. It is a very small gesture. So many people have forgotten about the religious meaning of Christmas, but I’m always aware of it – though it’s at the back of my mind, not in the forefront.
But, as I said, I understand festivities and feasts, so since I have known Alex (more than 20 years), I have been part of his family’s celebrations. For many years, we had grand meals at our place on Christmas day with as many of the family as could come. I make his mother’s recipes for Christmas cake and pudding. For the last couple of years, I’ve done family Christmas Eve dinners instead. It solves some of the “whose turn is it for Christmas this year?” dilemmas.
This year, there were 14 of us at the table on Christmas Eve, ranging in age from 10 to mid-80s, and it feels very special that everyone is gathered around the table.
What did I make to eat? Since we began with champagne and opening presents, there had to be something to accompany the drinks. So tiropites, which are now a family tradition. I made them small, each filo sheet cut into four long strips.
At table, we started with salmon rillettes, with a plate of plain smoked salmon (Huon) for the two grandchildren who I thought wouldn’t like rillettes (I was right). Then there was platters. Ham from Donati’s, and I had boned and stuffed a large chicken. A chicken galantine. The filling was chicken, mushrooms, herbs, peas. I roasted potatoes and pumpkin and sweet potato, and there were also big bowls of baby carrots, cooked Vichy-style (with water and a little butter, salt and sugar, cooked over moderate heat until the water evaporates totally).
We finished with a sago plum pudding – Alex’s mother’s recipe, which was doubled to serve the number of people. It takes five hours’ steaming, and it looks like a more conventional Christmas pudding, but is a bit lighter to eat. There were big bowls of cherries, too, and chocolates.