A few days before the festive season, we watched the Simply Nigella Christmas Special on the ABC. One of the dishes Nigella prepared in that episode very much appealed to the both of us.
Growing up in a Hungarian household, there was never any mention of fruit mince and fruit mince tartlets or pies in my mother's kitchen. It would be years before I knew such things existed. If memory serves me correctly, a high school home economics teacher may have lectured about them in a class on suet.
I have always been one to celebrate the changing of the seasons – particularly when it comes to the abundance of fresh new produce that arrives at local greengrocers and fruit markets. The tender spears of asparagus that herald Spring; plump mangoes and cherries in Summer months; crisp apples and sweet pears in Autumn; and those wonderful root vegetables during the depths of Winter.
Food shopping with one of my offspring recently, I discovered that the said loved one would prefer not to be served meat, fish or poultry on Christmas Day. This news did not really surprise me, as I had noticed a marked change in the shopping habits over the last several months, with more and more one-kilogram bags of carrots, amongst other vegetables, being added to the trolley each week.
'I miss you every Christmas day,' said my former sister-in-law, Anita, as she hugged me goodbye after we had caught up recently. 'And I especially miss your Tiramisu,' she added, with a wink and a smile.
'Chocolate is for life, not just Easter', declares a sticker that I shared on social media recently. It summed up my thoughts perfectly, given that I'd visited our local village shopping centre that morning and was taken aback by what can only be described as an obscene quantity of Easter chocolates on sale.
'Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.'
'There are four basic food groups: milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate and chocolate truffles.'
It goes without saying that I agree with Mr, Mrs or Ms Anonymous, who was made famous for that deliciously witty quotation. Certainly in the lead up to the festive season, I'm like a little squirrel, busy checking my larder to make sure that I have plentiful stocks of fine quality chocolate and locally grown hazelnuts.
As the marketing and events manager of a fresh produce market (in a former lifetime), one of the initiatives I implemented was market tours for school groups. I felt a little bit like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, leading groups of 60 children or more, and their teachers, through the centre. With the help of the store owners, the tours became quite an adventure and the children were always delighted, awestruck and fascinated.
'Gyere kislányom, a hideg meggyleves nagyon finom! (come my little girl, this cold cherry soup is really delicious!),' my mother, Irén, would say as she beckoned me to taste her freshly made, ice-cold soup. Clearly she loved it, and indeed it must have been very good. For with each spoonful she would close her eyes, form a smile, raise her shoulders towards her neck (as you do when something is immensely pleasurable), and make the 'Mmmm' sound. Actually I can still see the look of bliss on her face... it was as though this lovely lady, who had lived a much harder life than most of us could imagine, had just died and gone to heaven.
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I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.