I have been composing blog posts daily, lying awake at 4:00 AM. The trouble is, I don’t get up to write them down. I am now wondering if it is worth it to try to catch up on the holiday activities or just start from here, January 7, 2008? The thing is, we had some wonderful dinners and interesting times. Okay. I’ll summarize.
CHRISTMAS EVE. We drove down the tunnel-like road which leads to Cranleigh, where another butcher shop, Rawlings, sells local meats, and the fish monger next door has the freshest seafood around. I’d forgotten to order mussels in advance, so, of course, they had none left. We decided on oysters and a couple of enormous prawns instead. I did a little last minute shopping at Mann’s, the old-fashioned department store on the High Street. I’m ordering hand-made fireplace tools from the forge in Shere for Bernard’s Christmas present, but want him to have gifts to open on Christmas morning.
At 6:00 we go to the square for the traditional Christmas carol singing. It is packed. Two sides of the crowd are singing at different times, so it’s almost like singing rounds, except not. It is disconcerting. We greet a few friends, but head for home not quite sure we’re glad we came. Lynn from next door taps on my back. "What are you doing now," she asks. "Can you come and join us?" Why not, we say, and climb the slope to our next door neighbor. It is warm and Christmas-y inside. Their home is the other half of ours, so always interesting to look at, for us. The dining table is laden with sliced cold meats, salads, and sauces. The aroma of mulled wine floats over everything. We have a congenial drink with a houseful of people, then walk next door, to home.
Bernard shucks oysters while I prepare a parsley pesto to go with our grilled prawns. We have a candle light dinner with a chilled white wine, and then a moment in front of the fire before tumbling into bed.
CHRISTMAS DAY. We open our presents late in the morning, sipping freshly squeezed orange juice and munching fresh croissants. Unbelievably, the corner store in Shere stocks the most delicious French bread and croissants outside of France. I get busy preparing the goose for the oven, and enlist Bernard’s help stuffing prunes with the foie gras we bought in the Dordogne.
The prunes go inside the goose, and the goose goes inside the oven. We start with grattons, which are the bits left in the sieve after melting the goose fat, spread on triangles of toast, then carve the goose itself, serve it with root vegetables roasted in – what else – goose fat, and the obligatory Brussels sprouts. A sauce also, of course, made from the drippings, and with port wine. I can’t remember what we had for dessert, because subsequently I baked the desserts for two family gatherings and it has all run together.
AFTER CHRISTMAS, BEFORE NEW YEAR’S EVE. On Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, we had a wonderful dinner at an Auberge down the road, where the owners and all the servers are French. Our friends Leslie and Phillip joined us, and we enjoyed a relaxing, but lively, lunch. I even got to speak a little French.
Next day I made a Pecan Pie for Brenda and family, and a mince pie with the mince I made last year. Both are a big success at the gathering the following day.
It is now Friday. I have offered to make dessert for the Cappell-Hall Christmas Lunch. I make a chocolate meringue pie, which turns out beautifully. I try to make a Lady Baltimore Cake, chock full of yummy things. It fails to rise. In panic, because we will be 7 adults and 4 children, I make another pecan pie, but as I don’t have enough pecans, I also use walnuts. I used all the Golden Syrup making the first pecan pie, so I substitute Treacle, which is dark and gooey. The pie is edible, but not delicious as the first one was. The day is fun, anyway, with Christmas crackers being pulled, and 8 year old Louis ending up with all the toys inside them, as usual.
Mark, who is a very good cook, surpasses himself with a delicious prime rib roast, perfectly cooked, and an excellent gravy. Carolyn has produced beautiful, tasty, puffy Yorkshire puddings.
Everyone likes the Chocolate Meringue pie, but I bring home half the pecan-walnut pie. I did leave the flat cake, though, covered with whipped cream.
- LONDON DECEMBER 22