This is a first, and undoubtedly a last for me. A post about food.
I have just been gently coerced by a lovely daughter-in-law into hosting a cold Christmas dinner this year. Now don’t get me wrong, I love salads and would be happy to eat them at any meal – and particularly accompanied by a real leg of ham. No, it is not eating the meal that makes me shudder in the anticipation, it is the memory of my last cold offering, at the request of my late husband, one Christmas over 30 years ago.
Let me admit to being a poor cook. And I have deteriorated over the years. My first experience of a cooking failure was with icing. As a young high school student I made a Christmas cake to welcome my mother home for Christmas after she had been absent in another state for some weeks helping nurse her failing mother. I got stuck on the icing. It would not stick! My father arrived home to find me in tears. With the encouraging words, “it must be just like making concrete”, he helped me grapple with the icing sugar and we made a great batch of sweet cement. I have never since particularly fancied eating icing myself (although that soft icing made with mascarpone is very different)!
I lived for some years during and also after Uni in a shared house and we managed to keep the wolf from the door food wise so I started my marriage and a young family assuming I had an adequate capacity at the stove. But dealing with or perhaps, like a typhoid Mary, creating, a number of people with diagnosable eating disorders, including one’s husband, does take the edge off one’s culinary talents. At least that’s my excuse.
And his was a particularly centre stage food disorder including an inability (or disinclination) to remain seated at any table and a great skill with the spoken word, including somewhat infectious satire, which amused (and/or horrified) his audience. I tend to fear the food will run out and and I always seem to over cater so am used to being asked when the rest of the AFL Team is about to arrive. Sadly they never do.
An example of his satire was when he likened in appearance my individual crystal bowls of fresh raspberries set with raspberry jelly topped with flummery and served as dessert at a dinner party to “afterbirths”. There was much laughter but spoons markedly slowed.
It is irrelevant to this particular story, but an ever present example of eating disorders is that his family, and then some of our offspring, have a particularly interesting reaction to peas. Half of them dislike peas to such an extent that they would remove each individual pea from a plate of fried rice. The other half demand peas at every meal and would eat no other green vegetables. Anyway I will leave that particular subject as food disorders per se have no place in a food blog.
On that particular, forgettable Christmas Day my preparations knew no bounds. A large contingent of grandparents, step grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins was to be present so I pre cooked, and served cold, a selection of poultry to go with the ham and numerous salads and fancy breads. But the piece de resistance was a medley of seafood offerings. I had purchased two moulds, one in the shape of a lobster, one in a large donought shape for some salmon and the centre piece consisted of moulded seafood in aspic and some fresh prawns. These were painstakingly and tenderly prepared.
On the side I served one hot chicken with a few common old roast vegetables with three fussy children in mind – one mine and two nephews who would only eat hot food.
Everyone, led by the person who requested the cold meal in the first place, fought for the hot food. I spent the meal time reheating batches of chicken and turkey (and this was prior to microwaves).
When guests departed I was left with what my husband always referred to as a garbage “crisis”. It had not yet become what he later called a garbage “catastrophe”. Aware that the meal had not gone well with two almost untouched aspic masterpieces still standing proudly mid table he said to me consolingly, “Never mind, you can always use them in a jaffle”.
Christmas food has improved since then with adult children and their spouses springing to the the fore and producing wonderful dishes, like the daughter-in-law first mentioned who has produced Christmas rollettes and cous -cous salad (although predictive text on the phone did herald it as anus-anus salad). All I have to do these days is provide a few utensils.
And it was very flattering when a son-in-law with a great eye for art and wonderful tastes in furnishings asked if, next time the Antiques Road Show came to the Central Coast, he could take my electric beater along. He was particularly taken by its faux wood grain.
I rest my case.
PS When I told one daughter I was doing a food post she asked for a copy so she could show a psychiatrist and dietician.