Friday 3 December 2010

Advent Calendar - Holiday Foods

The first jobs I ever did were Saturday jobs while I was at school, first in a greengrocer's shop and then in a bakery. In the course of these two jobs I learnt something significant about Christmas food shopping; no matter how early you open the shop on Christmas Eve there will always be people waiting outside for you to unlock the doors; and no matter how late you close, someone will always come along and try the door after you have locked up.

But as for the food itself, I don't really have any particular memories of childhood Christmas meals - we lived in Scotland until I was 7, where New Year was the bigger holiday. My food memories are much more recent, from the time when I was in charge of cooking Christmas dinner, sometimes for a dozen people or more. Everyone lends a hand, and if you're really smart you can delegate everrything, end up doing nothing at all yourself and taking all the credit. Christmas dinner was always the usual turkey, stuffing, roast potatoes, vegetables, gravy and cranberry sauce, followed by Christmas pudding (with sixpences of course, except that since we went decimal they have to be 5p pieces). And regardless of how much they had put away at lunchtime, everyone could find room later on for cheese, sausage rolls, fruit, chocolates and so on, but most especially my mother's mince pies. I always made Boxing Day dinner an antidote to the richness of Christmas dinner; poached salmon, boiled potatoes and salad, followed by ice cream.

My mother still makes her famous mince pies, in industrial quantities, owing to popular demand. Everyone in the family has their own supply to take home, and I always have a large box that I take into the office after Christmas. Certain people that I work with wait eagerly for them every year, and I can't put them all out at once, I have to operate a phased release policy to ensure fair shares.


  1. If those are the pies I love the crust.

  2. Audrey - I have lots of Scottish ancestry on my dad's side of the family. About 3 years ago we took a trip to Scotland and loved it!

    The mince pies sound wonderful!! I really like the looks of the star-crusts.

  3. I have to confess that I cheated with the picture, because I won't get to see this year's batch until Christmas. BUT that is exactly what they look like. The stars look pretty, but they also help make the balance of pastry and filling just right.

    Diana, I'm glad you enjoyed Scotland. I try to get back there myself when I can, but it's not enough!