I don’t know about you, but I stumbled into December trying to keep my balance. In many ways, this year is like me outdoors in a wide open space, standing still, the world wandering past in big blurry images. So much has happened around us and around the world. So when people ask me what I’m doing for Christmas, I’m really confused and simply shaking my head. I am not in the mood to start thinking about Christmas and food.
I know opening seems like such a downfall to a food column, but food is about life and living, and life is what I’m talking about. As often as I have been asked what I do and cook for the holidays, I have sought answers from those who ask, mainly friends and readers of this column. Almost equally divided, half say they plan to go all out to make the traditional dishes and drinks. They want this Christmas to be a very big celebration even though they may not get together with others.
On the other hand, others opt for a low key relationship. Not a big set of cooking, they might do 1 or 2 traditional things, like cake and sorrel to stay in the spirit of the season, but the Christmas meal itself would be simple; every day, comfort food, as defined by every household.
The reasons for both options are clear. Those who want a big celebration choose it because of the kind of year we’ve had and because we’re still living in a pandemic. They need an outlet, they need to be free and forget, even for a day or two, the sadness, loneliness, distance and uncertainty that this year has brought. They love to make it Christmas. Those who want to keep things low key are tired and vigilant. With social distance in the routine of the day, the need to protect the vulnerable, and the inability to travel, he will not get together with friends, family or relatives. Keeping the food simple is a sign of quiet celebration.
One of the things about the holiday or any holiday, no matter the time of year, is getting together with loved ones, family, friends. And then there’s the food and drinks we’re feasting on and joyful. Eating together during the holidays is different, it’s special. Sometimes this is the only time for us to do so, eating with everyone assembled.
With the restraints and locks many have been cooking and eating more at home, so they feel full in a variety of ways. They do not want food for the physical food but for the sharing, fellowship and community that food facilitates during the holidays when we congregate.
Many people, (I included), want to be somewhere else, somewhere quiet to reflect, re-group and recharge. Someone might say but in closing there is a lot of time to be quiet and reflect, it’s not the same; you’re limited to space and everything has a different pace, tempo and rhythm.
This will be the first Christmas without my mother, and I’ve been wondering what to do. I think that in honor of her, I might take part in some of the rituals we learned from her or the things she insisted on doing for the holidays, so that the house was decorated by December 15. That date was important because it marked the beginning of the Novenas in the Sacred Heart Church. The previous year’s Christmas curtains would be up, waiting to be replaced with new curtains this year on Christmas Eve afternoon. New bedding would have already been bought, washed and ironed, ready for their first Christmas game. The smell of baking ham in the oven late at night and a pressure cooker, hot, would be filled with Cooking Rice on the stove for a late night nap (in Guyana that would have come home from midnight mass) . I prefer sorrel only at Christmas, but Mum loved homemade ginger beer, so I guess I will for some.
Of all the traditional Christmas foods, Pepperpot is my favorite, so I’ll definitely make some to have with homemade bread. Rites and traditions are how we are in our lives so I seem to be doing a little of both.
What are you doing this year? How do you plan to celebrate the holidays? And what food camp are you in? Do you usually go all out or keep things simple and quiet? Just know that there is nothing good or wrong, just what works and feels right for you and those in your home. If there’s one thing we should have learned this year is that traps and stuff don’t matter, people do.
This year, let’s make food and drinks to drop vulnerable friends and relatives, those whose families are abroad and those who live alone but would usually get along with others for the holidays but cannot this year.
Effective from next week, Tastes Like Home will be published in the Sunday edition of the newspapers until January 9th, 2021.