Sunday, December 12, 2010

The year without her....

I had a stunning revelation on Friday evening as I sat sipping a cup of tea and staring at the Christmas tree. I wanted a shortbread cookie.

Now this might not seem like a revelation of major proportions but it startled me. Those lovely little cookies would not appear this year like they had for the past 8 years...the time when Mom and I shared a house and all our holidays.

Before we shared this house, I had been the one tasked with preparing those things that Christmas tradition dictated. And I loved it. But I had definitely gotten out of the habit once Mom lived downstairs and she took great pride in sharing her Christmas delights with us.

When Gerry moved in and Mom discovered his love of bits and bites, those were added to our tradition and she made buckets of them. He sat contentedly eating whatever was available and I know how good his obvious enjoyment of them made her.

And now, in the beginning of the year without her, I realize that it is up to me to continue what she started.

This morning I made Christmas pudding (recipe from a long ago friend), that fantastic concoction of potatoes, carrots, candied fruits and peels, suet, spices that make your head reel, and of course those Christmas staples, butter, molasses and eggs.

I cried a bit as the smell of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves invaded the house and I mixed my biggest bowlful with my hands. Mom had always made Christmas cakes (two of which I have taken from the freezer and drenched in amaretto awaiting their debut) and my kitchen smelled just like she was there with me.n

I can see her hands, with their hereditary age spots and strong fingers, digging through the mixture making sure it all combined. In the middle of mixing the pudding, my hands are sticky and sweet, with the beginnings of those same age spots on them.

Once the bowls of fragrant pudding are in their steamers and the shortbreads are cooling on the kitchen table, I sit down and listen to Loreena McKennitt's winter album, "To Drive the Cold Winter Away". I feel my Mom next to me and am comforted by her.

I miss her terribly but know that by keeping her traditions alive, I am not without her. And I am grateful that I had the kind of mother who kept these traditions and passed them along to me. I only hope I can do the same for my children.


Marion Bates' Christmas Pudding:

4c flour
9tsp baking powder
3tsp salt
3 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ginger
1 1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
9 eggs
6 tbsp molasses
3 3/4 c brown sugar
3 c shredded potato
3 c shredded carrot
3 c seedless raisins
3 c currants
1 1/2 c almonds (I used sliced)
3/4 lb red cherries (the glacee kind)
3/4 lb green cherries
3 c pineapple rings
3 c suet
2 c candied peel
3 c breadcrumbs

Sift and measure flour, add spices, sift again. Add salt,baking powder, sift again, Add brown sugar. Measure raisins, currants, cherries, pineapple, nuts, suet, breadcrumbs, raw potatoes and carrots and place in a separate bowl.

Beat eggs and molasses. Mix fruit mix and egg mix alternatively into flour (use a REALLY big bowl). Fill mold (I use nice heavy ceramic bowls so when the pudding is turned out it is a nice rounded hump on the plate) 3/4 full. I line the bowls with cheesecloth but you can simply just cover each with parchment paper (tied down) or aluminum foil.

Steam 4 hours. I use my big canning pot, invert a smaller stainless steel bowl inside it and fill half way up bowl with water. Then I set the mold on top of the bowl.

Uncover to cool. Wrap to store.

When serving, put the pudding out topside down and drench with brandy, or rum, or whatever you like. Light it on fire and serve. Spectacular dessert!

When serving, I include a hard sauce or caramel sauce just to push it over the top.!

Great with a glass of homemade Port while sitting in front of the fire.