When I first decided to participate in the Holy Supper Madness instigated by Ms. Dirty I expected it all to be fairly straightforward. I mean how hard could it be? All I had to do was cook a few dishes and share them with my dead. Simple, right? Wrong!
What started out as a simple plan for celebrating the Winter Solstice has led me a merry dance. I have been on a journey that has had more twists and turns than a Cornish country lane, more ups and downs than a roller coaster. It has been difficult at times and it has certainly been frustrating, but ultimately it has been fun, and it has been wondrous. The realisation that I knew very little about most of my family has led me to begin researching my family tree. I uncovered a few surprises and hit a few brick walls; it's an on-going project and will keep me occupied for many years I expect. I have had the pleasure of discovering my Great-Grandma's recipe book, and sampling its many delights and I have learnt that sometimes when plans go awry, they do so for a reason.
All the set backs in our plans meant we postponed everything until New Year's Eve, a date which has significance for both my mad druid and myself, and gave us an excuse to make two very special ladies the focus of our feast. The Mad Druid's mother left this world at the young age of 52; she would have been 84 on the 31st of December and my own grandmother died at the similarly early age of 56 on New Year's Eve 30 years ago. What better night to make them guests of honour at our feast?
And so it was that I spent the day of the 31st in my little kitchen, creating dishes worthy of our dead. My husband had asked for a sherry trifle for his mum as she had loved them, so for the first time in many years I made trifle, complete with jelly and sponge fingers and thick custard, just as we both remembered it from our childhoods, 60's/70's style, and I can't even begin to tell you of all the memories that brought flooding back! I made brandy snaps for my Grandma, she always made them for the holidays, they were something she only made for special occasions as it wasn't often she could afford to have brandy in the house. I loved to make them with her, curling them, still warm and sticky, around the handle of a wooden spoon to make a tube we could later fill with cream. I also made Rum Nicky, a Cumbrian recipe full of dates and ginger-and rum obviously- in honour of my father's mother whom I never knew and out of all my family is the one I know the least about.
Have you noticed that, so far, all I've made is deserts? And to think I thought I didn't have so much of a sweet tooth these days!
But the evening wasn't entirely sugar fuelled. I had hoped to make the Delicious sounding Hunter's pie from my Nana's recipe book but my finances were limited so that will have to wait for another day. Instead I made her chicken liver pate and farmhouse loaf, and some homemade butter to go with it. Together with the pickled onions my Mum made as part of our Christmas gift, it was very tasty and enjoyed by the living and dead alike. All washed down with my step-dad's homemade Sloe Wine, it was a joyful celebration indeed. I'm certain it was appreciated because as I was cleaning up the kitchen I found a shilling. The UK went decimal in 1971 but I vaguely remember being given a shilling each week by my Granddad as pocket money, in fact even long after decimalisation he still referred to a five pence piece as a shilling, a 10p as two shilling etc. He used to to hide our pocket money before we arrived each Sunday morning and my brother and I would spend hours hunting for it. It was such fun, for us and him. So you can imagine my surprise, and delight, to find an old shilling, as I was cleaning up, under the washing-up liquid! I think that counts as a big thumbs up from Granddad :)
We rounded it all off by going to see the fantastic firework display on the beach. For a small, and rather sleepy, little town this place really knows how to party.
And then home again to finish off my Sloe Gin.