mince pies. The Senior Cat likes mince pies. He has firm views on what they should be like...not too large, not too much pasty and a good quantity of filling. I do the best I can but I do not claim to have the same success with them as his mother.
His mother made her own "mincemeat" of course. I can remember it was a rather long process - but the end result was worth the effort. I confess I use "Robertson's" - probably along with a good portion of those who endeavour to make their own - and I have twice resorted to buying them from a nearby bakery where there is not too much pasty and a good quantity of filling. The only problem is that their pies are rather large - the Senior Cat and I can happily share one between us.
Of course I should have been writing the Christmas cards but the weather forecast for the rest of the week suggests "very hot" and it is easier to write cards in the heat than it is to make mince pies.
All that made me wonder how my grandmothers coped with Christmas. Most of it did fall on them. We were living in remote areas. When school was finished for the year we would pack the car and return to the city. By the time we arrived most of the Christmas preparations would be done. Perhaps that is why things like tree decoration have never loomed large in my life.
My maternal grandmother never had to handle large crowds. There would be the six of us, my mother's brother (then unmarried) and my grandparents. Nine was a small number - although I don't suppose it felt like that.
My paternal grandmother on the other hand would cope with as many as twenty for a sit down traditional Christmas dinner in the heat. How she managed is still a mystery to me. The dining room table was huge. I can remember my brother and I putting the extension in the middle. You wound the table out and fitted the piece in. It was then our job to set the table - later checked by Grandma. We did this from the time I as about eight and my brother six. We were also expected to help with the washing up. We actually did not mind doing that because my grandfather would usually help as well and tell us stories about Christmas when he was a boy - which sometimes meant more than thirty people being fed by his mother.
My two sisters and my cousins were considered too young to participate in giving this help. They were allowed to play with their Christmas presents.
Looking back now though and realising we just accepted that food appeared in front of us I cannot help wondering if my paternal grandmother in particular was just thankful when Christmas was over. I think I would have been.