Via Food Rituals & Tradition, The Benefits of Change, Festive Food Folklore and Light, Warmth & Feasting in the Dark of The Year
Dearest Gentle Reader,
I hope you are enjoying the beginning of this very festive month. I am having the best time with festive cookbooks. I will share my favourites in the comments if you will share yours too? I must confess though that there are some which I will probably never cook from, unless their recipes are already part of my Christmas. It takes a lot for a recipe to shoehorn its way in at this stage. There was an opportunity there about 11 years ago when I completely changed my Christmas and started to build my own rituals and new traditional meals but I am pretty much reestablished again now so things would take some shifting. I’m not saying they won’t, big upheavals aren’t always a once in a lifetime occasion.
However, adding a Winter Solstice celebration has given me an extra festive meal to keep fluid in terms of menu, allowing me to try out wonderful seasonal new dishes and have fabulous leftovers. Somehow having that one meal sitting outside my more fixed menu, makes the more repetitive ritual meals more special for their constancy at this time of year.
If you want to know why my festive celebration meal changed and how the midwinter break and celebration recharge me rather than drain me then you are very welcome to read my late November letter from last year. I loved getting it all out on paper and if I could get away with it I’d just copy and paste and send it back out this year. It tells of the joy to be found in indulging and pausing at Midwinter, and why I no longer feel driven to steam up my kitchen on Stir-Up Sunday.
What I won’t be doing here in these December letters is examining the folklore around the origins of Christmas, how they link to pagan, Norse and Roman celebrations and how old some of our traditions are. All I will say is that right down in the very bones of all these midwinter festivals, there is a very human wish to create a space for light, warmth and feasting in the darkest part of the year. A celebration of life whilst the earth is sleeping.
In the spirit of this instinctive human need to create light in the darkness I want to share again my belief that everyone can create their own traditions, or enjoy the ones they have celebrated for years, decades, centuries or even millennia. We can do this and still respect and honour the traditions of others. Celebrate in a way that feels right to you, we certainly don’t need to make the world a darker place.
That includes those of you who don’t celebrate Christmas at all, even at a very secular level. You may be currently ignoring my midwinter celebrations and waiting until I start writing about other things which I completely understand. You may also be in a space this year when any kind of celebration seems impossible and unwanted. I truly hope you are able to find some peace even if that means you need to block out the world for a bit and sit down working your way through of a pile of dvds from a charity shop to remove the risk of festive adverts. Admittedly, that means you probably aren’t reading, or certainly not reaching the end of a letter all about celebration. Hopefully my thoughts will reach you by some kind of osmosis.
Shall we perhaps concentrate on eating, something not traditional or a part of the Christmas ritual? I give you my recipe, if such a thing is needed, for the best ever cheese toastie. I think it could even be made with vegan cheese and mayo but I must admit I haven’t tried. This toastie is the perfect thing to lift a mood, it’s quick and not super expensive and is perfect to eat whilst watching telly, reading a book (unless it’s someone else’s as it can be a bit messy) or just sitting with yourself. It goes as well with sparkling wine as it does with builder’s tea and even most things in between (but probably not Baileys, all things considered). It’s hard to feel too rubbish when you are licking the last remains off your fingers even if it feels like your employer, your truest love, and every possible rail operating company are collaborating to try your very last nerve.
Cheese Toastie of Joy & Wonder
2 slices bread (substantial for preference)
Extra Mature Cheddar thinly sliced – enough for a generous sandwich
1 tablespoon concentrated tomato puree
1-2 tblsp rich mayonaise
1.5 teaspoons English mustard or other hot strong mustard
Toast the bread on one side only
Apply a thin scraping of mayo to the toasted side of the bread
Apply a thin scraping of tomato puree on one slice on top of the mayo
Apply a thin scraping of mustard on the other slice on top of the mayo.
If you are cooking under the grill apply half of the cheese to each slice covering the condiment mixture. Then put the slices cheese side up under the grill and grill until melted then put the two cheese sides together. Cut in half and serve.
If you are making in a sandwich press just add the cheese to one slice, placing the other bread slice on top, condiments facing down onto the cheese. Toast until the cheese is starting to melt out the sides of the sandwich. Cut in half and serve.
I know I promised you a mincemeat recipe too, so if you want one, just let me know in the comments.
I’ll leave you with that recipe, as sadly I must now bring this letter to a close. Please don’t hesitate however to get in touch via the comments or via any of my social media profiles/my website . If you have enjoyed this and would like to read further such nonsense and have not yet subscribed, please don’t hesitate to subscribe for free at the button below. You’d be very welcome and it would be a joy to write to you.