The Stories behind the Christmas treats
Christmas is a time for family, both the one you are born into and the ones you choose. Christmas at our house is a time of giving thanks, plenty, togetherness and love, and in earlier days, hordes of visitors. From mid morning to late night, we were greeting and being greeted, and sharing our safely hoarded treats with our non-christian friends.
As a military family for several generations, every Christmas could be in a different place, and the various makings of traditional treats may or may not have been available. So we began shopping and sending for foods, and storing them from October or earlier because we knew that come Christmas Day, every military friend would descend on our home en masse to wish us A Happy Christmas, and enjoy the treats that we cooked only at this time of the year. And if you were a new(ish) wife, far away from home and Mum, you learnt to depend on your friends to teach you how to cook a particular dish or treat, and how to scale it out for numbers.
Every Christmas Recipe has a name
All my recipes have a name attached to them. The name is usually the person who passed on the recipe, like Myrna’s Coconut Sweet. With just the minimum ingredients, this coconut ice is a failsafe one, that always sets, and sometimes it may be pink, or sometimes if I was distracted and burnt a couple of strands, it would be golden brown. And this recipe is from when we were in a base called Yelahanka, nestled in coconut groves and surrounded by shining pay fields. That’s a memory now, Yelahanka is now a suburb of Bangalore on the way to the airport. And every time we arrive or leave, we crane or necks to peer into the base, that is in itself little changed.
The Rum Punch is definitely my Dad’s, I can still see him taking over the kitchen and whipping up the punch, complete with splitting the milk into it and then straining it though a fine muslin cloth. The last time he did this was in Udhampur, an army base in the foothills of the Himalayas, before he retired. We imagined long holidays with Mum and Dad in their retirement, with lots of Christmasses, but it was not to be. Within a couple of years of retiring, before he could settle into a peaceful retirement, he was gone.
After many years of baking or steaming rich fruity plum puddings, we came to Australia, and here, it is much too hot for that – as Christmas is in the midst of a burning hot summer. And so I switched to Kulfi – an Indian icecream, and for this, I had to call my sister Maureen, and ask her for her easy magnificent recipe, all made with ingredients available in Australia.
A Christmas Meal That’s As Unique As You Are!
Christmas meals are always a great time to get together but if you’re in a multiracially blended family, the best way to make your holiday meal feel unique is by considering what your family’s various cultures have to offer.
Who knew I would love roast potatoes and Yorkshire puddings? Only after my son in law Simon took over Christmas one year, and to tell the truth, I was a bit nervous, so I carried along my special biriyani. And there is a story about that biriyani too.. I call it Meena’s mother-in-laws recipe, because that is whose recipe it is, although I never met the lady. And talking of mothers in law, the accompaniment to biriyani is always a flaming red burning hot chutney with a flavour of honey, called, Mother in laws tongue – hot and sharp, and yet sweet and full of love. The trouble is that it always leads to the debate – is it a vegetable, mineral or sweet? what do you think?
On a practical note, I start prepping for the meal, at least a week in advance now, and sometimes earlier. Here is a little printable that you can use to make sure nothing is forgotten.
The Stories I Shared with You
I cannot really invite you all home for Christmas dinner, but I shared something much more precious with you, the stories that live on, even after the dinner is eaten.
What stories do you have to share?