I'm taking a bit of time out from posting about writing - just because I want to!
I'm cooking Christmas Puddings today. They were supposed to be cooked the first weekend in October but due to a family issue we're all dealing with at the moment, the Pudding Weekend slipped by unnoticed. But all is not lost because I ordered my suet (yes all you vegetarians can faint with disgust - suet is the fat surrounding the kidneys of a cow and is an essential ingredient in my recipe) and last night I got all my bits and pieces weighed out and this morning it was all systems go.
This recipe has been handed down from my German great grandma to my Gran to my Mum and then to me. I have two sisters, neither one of whom were interested in carrying on the tradition (but they both eat the pudding!) and my Mum has two sisters and she was the only one who made the pudding in her family too. Funny how things have a way of repeating in a family isn't it? Anyway about ten years ago I started helping Mum make the puddings with a view of slowly absorbing the methodology and one day making them myself. As in on my own. Alone. Which frightens the jingle bells out of me because the pudding is the one thing in my family that everyone loves and looks forward to so if I get it wrong I will be taken out the back and thumped with a large blunt object.
So every year Mum has been letting me do more and more on my own and the last few years she's had her three wishes stirring the pudding mix and then just sat, cradling her cuppa, watching as I mix and pour and wrap (with my Dad employing his superb knot tying skills) and submerge the puds. It's a family tradition that once the mix is ready to go into the cloths, each person in the house gets to have three wishes while stirring the mix. It's whacky but we all do it (even my brothers who pooh-pooh anything sentimental) and I think watching everyone do it is the best part. Then we talk about Gran making the puddings and Christmases past and Christmas this year and we usually have Christmas music on (little known fact: like plants, Christmas Pudding do much better if they have appropriate music played to them). Mum and Dad used to stay all day, with Mum telling me when I needed to add more water to the pots etc and Dad would help me get them out and we'd oh and ah and then they'd go home. But all day my house has the undeniably quintessential smell of Christmas.
If I take a deep breath now, I can inhale Christmas - at least what it signifies to me: family and giving thanks for another year full of blessings.
Except this year it's different. This year my beloved Mummy is sick with bronchitis and she couldn't make it. So the dreaded year has arrived. The first year I did it all on my own. Throughout it all I had to imagine my Mum sitting at the table with me, her confident voice telling me what I needed to do next and how much beer to put in and if the mix was wet enough and reminding me to pull all the ends of the cloths in. And I remember how we normally share our horror about the time Gran didn't pull them all in tight enough and the puddings leaked out into the water. This year I had three generations of women whispering advice and encouragement in my ear and even though I was doing it by myself, I didn't feel alone.
Family traditions are a beautiful thing. I hope your Christmas Puddings turn out as good as mine normally do!