A woman's work is never done?
Christmas is a great example of modern domestic anthropology. And a great example of how women exploit themselves -- with some pleasure, it must be said. I am talking cooking.
I can't any longer remember what exactly we did when the kids were really little about the cake and the puddling. I (sort of) know that they were always bought in -- where would I have got the time otherise. In fact I remember standing in front of a large display of pre-prepared Christimas puds in Eaden Lilley's (remember it, Cambridge folk?), trying desperately to make my mind up amomst the vast array (by alcohol content, I should say). There was a tap on my shoulder. It was Roger Dawe, who simply said "Mary, take that one". (It was a Matthew Walker's specimen, in case you are interested, and damn good).
I did, and jolly good it was. And I suspect only a few classicists will know quite how odd and surprising this encounter was. For those who aren't classicists, I should say that Roger and I are on far ends of the classical spectrum -- but despite out classical/ideological differences I shall always remember him with gratitude pointing me in the direction of a good pud (and talking to me later about the Philogelos). I suspect he doesn't know quite how grateful I am, on both scores.
But things (and rods for the back) move on.
I cant quite remember when I started to do the Stir Up Sunday routine and make my own. But I guess it's more than fifteen years that I have been recreating for the kids the Christmas they never had, and are increasingly committed to.
It's not that (dv) cakes and puddngs are difficult to pull off (fruit, flour, suet, brandy, cook is not a big challenge). But they do worry one in all kinds of ways.
The cake is actually easy enough. So long as you soak the fruit the evening before, you have about 90 mins mixing and then it is in the oven till done. You can go out and come back (as I did) and no disasters will have happened. Steaming the damn Christmas puddings is another matter entirely. If you have one big and two little ones on the gas, you have to be watching all the time in case the buggers dry out (burnt bottom, pudding ruined).
It's a whole load of silly sweat, but I am still kind of glad I have started to do it. It's the only ritual I do with any enthusiasm, and with no regrets. Watch this space for the purchase of the tree and mistletoe.
(By the way, I always do cake with Delia and pudding with Floyd: any reason to change?)