I’ve brought my ship into port, all flags flying, and all hands safe on deck. Saturday morning, just before noon, we finished the Saint Vincent de Paul Christmas baskets for another year. It’s never easy. Every year it’s two months of non-stop Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets. But this year we all worked even harder than usual.
So many more families asked for help this year that I couldn’t bear to close the list the week before delivery as I usually do. Hence, I was still adding clients to the list at 10:00 on Friday night, and still calling teary, grateful clients early on Saturday morning to say yes, we would be bringing them food that day. Saturday was a scramble, as you might imagine, but everyone pitched in, and we provided Christmas groceries and presents for seventy-three families. Yay! And Phew!
I barely moved from the couch last Sunday, but after getting a little rest, I was ready to think about my own Christmas. I’ve made my list, checked it twice, and made the rounds of grocery and liquor stores–the liquor store is a zoo on Christmas Eve, but very festive, I must say. I’ve stuffed the stockings and delivered baked goods to the neighbors. And in a little while, I’m going to put on some Christmas carols, pour a glass of wine, and start cooking. Oh, nothing too strenuous or fiddly. I’ll make potato leek soup, and meatballs with yogurt dipping sauce, an orzo salad with spinach and feta, and a cheese tray.
Sissy and her family are leaving town today for the holiday weekend, but Michael is coming over later, and I’ve invited a few friends to stop by at their leisure, and we’re going to curl up in front of the fireplace and watch Christmas movies and graze. I’ve got eggnog, and cocoa, and rum, and the makings for White Russians, and Prosecco. The trick will be to not get too tipsy to make it to midnight mass…
And it really wouldn’t be a proper Christmas without my Great-Grandmother’s Plum Pudding. Many years ago, I started making traditional English plum pudding for Christmas dinner. Initially inspired by my love of British mystery novels and then finally moved to action by my annual viewing of A Christmas Carol, I bought a pudding mold. My first plum pudding was so-so. I’m not a fan of candied fruit, but the liberal application of brandy and flames helped.
Then, on a visit to my grandparents, I happened to mention the whole Christmas plum-pudding thing. My Grandfather started telling stories of Christmases past, and before I knew it, he had written out the recipe for his mother’s Plum Roly-Poly Pudding on a piece of my Grandma’s letter paper, in his spidery, old-fashioned script. He signed off with, “This was my Mother’s. We sure like it. Grampa Porter”
The recipe is simple, doesn’t call for candied fruit, and results in a light, fluffy pudding that is more cake than fruitcake. It’s not a perfect recipe. It makes a fragile pudding that is merry hell to unmold without breaking. And frankly, I usually modify the Dip recipe by substituting whiskey for the water. But Christmas cooking isn’t about perfection, is it? It’s about gathering with friends and family and giving from the heart. And even if I serve a broken pudding every now and then, I know that generations of love are mixed up in that pudding, and I remember my Grandpa Porter’s shrewd eyes that saw everything, and his smile, and how much he loved life, and his pride in his family–imperfections and all–and how he relished a treat.
Plum Roly-Poly Pudding
• 1 cup ground suet
• 1 1/2 cup flour
• 3 tsp baking powder
• 1 cup milk
• 1 ½ cups plums, cooked and pitted
Combine flour, baking powder, suet and milk to make batter. Put half in a greased mold. Spread plums in an even layer, then the rest of the batter. Steam for 2 ½ to 3 hours.
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 tbsp flour
• 1 tbsp vinegar
• 1 tbsp butter
• ½ cup water
Mix and cook for about 3 minutes
Carefully remove pudding from mold to serving plate. Serve hot with dip. For traditional presentation, pour brandy over pudding and flame pudding, and decorate with a sprig of holly (Word to the wise: put the holly on top AFTER flaming the pudding. Take my word for this).