Monday, 26 December 2011

There are times when I am not sure

about the wisdom of traditional Christmas food.
No, do not misunderstand me. We managed to get through yesterday without anyone having an argument about food. That may have something to do with the fact that arguments about anything are, fortunately, very rare in our family. My father and I did not overindulge in the food. (We did not give each other extravagant presents. There are no problems there either.)
However for years now we have also been included in the get together arranged by my sister's extended in-law family. They are Greek. The family is large. The tradition began not long after my sister married. It has been going on for long enough that we all know what is expected of us. When my mother was alive she used to worry she was not taking enough food. I know I am taking more than they need. There is always too much food.
We no longer sit down to a roast dinner and Christmas pudding. That was always rather foolish in weather which is usually too warm for comfort. The Greeks have shellfish, kalamari, lamb, turkey, chicken, kebabs and other Greek delicacies. On two occasions my brother-in-law's father has cooked an entire animal on a spit - and there was nothing but bones left when the Greeks had finished devouring it. The sight of meat in those quantities decreases rather than increases my appetite.
Then there is always a table filled with dishes of roast potato, pumpkin and sweet potato, a baked potato dish, potato salad (dressed in lemon juice and olive oil), coleslaw with a similar dressing, bean salad, lettuce salad, tomato salad, rice salad and a plate piled high with dolmades.
All that would be enough on its own for us but, because it is a celebratory occasion, they have a sweets course as well. Greek sweets such as baklava and shortbread appear along with a Greek version of trifle. The family has also become sufficiently Australian for the next generation to insist on jellies, pavlova, cheesecake and "honey crackles" as well. There is always water melon, chosen by my sister's father-in-law, cut into slices. The children are old enough now not to have too many pip-spitting contests.
I am always surprised at how little food is left at the end of the day. It is laid out buffet style. People help themselves from about one o'clock onward until early evening. Most people eat far more than we do.
It has been my job to contribute the cheesecake and the "honey crackles" (made with cornflakes, sugar, honey and butter). The latter are also beloved by the children who will sit and eat them one cornflake at a time while they are required to sit still .
There was a disaster yesterday. I was taking the cheesecake out of the fridge at a very early hour in order to reach something stored behind it. The dish slipped and landed on the floor. It was the end of the cheesecake.
For a moment I almost panicked. I am still surprised the noise made by the fall and my wail did not wake my still sleeping father. Then reason asserted itself. I looked at the clock. It was still before six in the morning. We were not being picked up until nearly eleven.
I measured yeast, I weighed out flour and polenta, I added water and a cup of parmesan cheese. I set the bread machine going. I drained a cup of pitted black olives and cut them in halves ready to put in at the right moment.
Then I cleared up the mess on the floor and reckoned the bread would be done about half an hour before we needed to leave.
It was. I presented the bread to our hostess and explained what had happened. She said, "Oh Cat!" and hugged me. The bread, she told me, would be very welcome.
Another brother-in-law cut the bread into Greek style chunks and added it to the plain bread which was already there.
Not long after that people began to eat. My father, busy talking woodwork with one of the youngest teens, came late to the buffet. Bread? Where was Cat's bread? Had it all disappeared? No, there was one piece left for him. My sister had put it aside for him. The rest had been eaten.
So, I am not sure about traditional Christmas food. Perhaps next year I should make another loaf of bread with cheese and olives in it? Or perhaps I should make something else?


widdershins said...

Bread sounds like a great idea.

Anonymous said...

Bread with cheese and olives again I would think! Sounds excellent to me. Bob C-S

jeanfromcornwall said...

What an inspiration - there is nothing better than a really fresh loaf of bread made properly. I am not surprised that it disappeared like snow in the Sahara! Looks like your little flash of genius has established a new tradition.

Rachel Fenton said...

Fresh baked bread - nothing finer. I'm your fan for life :)

Christmas can be such a stress (and a faff). Very simple affair in our house, and no complaints. I hate food waste.

Ruth in Ottawa said...

I have never heard of shortbread referred to as a Greek specialty! Unless it is something other than the (Scottish?) version of butter/sugar/flour? But your bread does sound wonderful and it was obviously popular!

catdownunder said...

All I can say is "thank goodness' for bread machines"!
Ruth there is definitely a Greek version of shortbread - Kourabiethes. It usually has almonds in it.