No Pudding Zone
It's currently 23C here in Adelaide which is a pleasant change after the 38C (100F) heat of yesterday. 38C+ days make the simple act of walking out to the letterbox impossible without having all the moisture sucked out from your eyes and your arms instantly sunburnt.
Yet, after 200+ plus years of colonising Australia, we still insist on eating seasonally inappropriate hot, stodgy food in order to cling on to some crap Christmas food traditions started by the Poms. Roast turkey, oily bread stuffing, greasy roast vegetables and gluey gravy. Glazed ham, hot pudding, custard..... why does it always remind of me Bob Cratchett, Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim?
As a kid, my auntie would give me a turkey wing or a leg, saying, "Oh, I know you kids love eating chicken legs, so you'll love this!" Good Manners Or Death was the only acceptable behaviour available to me thanks to my parents, so I'd take the leg and try my damnedest to gnaw through what I thought was a dark brown piece of mallee wood. On those rare occasions when I got some of the breast meat it was as dry as a front doormat. Turkey is a crap meat to eat for Christmas or any time - they're ugly and awkward in life with those unfortunate loose red dangly bits and in death they're not worth a cracker either.
Things did not improve. The rather scary-looking turkey carcase would be carted away and we'd then be presented with a huge leg of honeyed ham. Having just torturously chewed enough of the mallee root to not seem rude, the arrival of the ham did not help things. I don't like ham. Never have, never will; too salty, slimy and, well piggy for me. All of the other kids would be jumping up and down saying, "Oooh yes please Uncle Brian, two pieces for me please," and I'd be pulling my paper crown over my eyes in the vain hope he'd forget about me.
Sure there was lollies and nuts on the table, but in the 1970s, my nanna liked to buy the 2kg bags of 'Christmas Treat Mix' lollies that were about as nice to eat as her own denture cream. I can still recall their bright wrappers and shudder at their amphetamine laboratory taste. The coloured popcorn was another shocker. To an excited six year old it looked beautiful and therefore delicious, until I actually ate some. Chemically sprayed styrofoam would have tasted better, yet it's still available in shops today. Perhaps you can now see why I rarely bothered to eat any nuts due to being disappointed too many times already.
Notwithstanding these culinary cruelties, the course I dreaded most was the hot Christmas pudding. Think about it - how many people under the age of 18 like fruit cake? Well how many do you think are going to like eating Christmas bloody pudding? It was served with someone's idea of brandy custard - the devil's own version of Clag glue. It smelled like burned milk and reminded me of the smell inside our car after one of us kids had thrown up in it on the windy old way to Adelaide. We had another choice though - icecream. No, not icecream, 'ice confection' in a 4 litre carton. Ice confection should be declared illegal.
So should fruit salad from a tin. Again, in the 1970s/early 1980s, this was considered acceptable to serve up to guests as dessert. The slimy little squares of peach, apricot and pear would slide down my throat painfully slowly as I prayed fervently they wouldn't rise back up again any time soon. There was always one fake pink 'cherry' in the tin - who the hell did Ardmona think they were fooling. Just Thumb, my younger brother, who always clamoured for it.
The only saving grace from Christmas meals of that era was that Mum and Dad suspended their anti-fizzy drink rules. Normally we would have been lucky to have been permitted three glasses a year of the sticky stuff, but at Christmas it was all there waiting for us - Fruita, Coke (no diet stuff heard of then), Hall's Raspberry and lime and Woodies' lemonade. It was all very much appreciated by me because it helped me wash my mouth out.
Thankfully those food fiascos are just a dim memory thanks to time, food fashions, divorces, marriages and children. We're hosting Christmas lunch tomorrow for Love Chunk's family. As the master cook with a clue, he is handling the serious stuff - two corn-fed free-range chickens roasted in the weber, rosemary potatoes and every kind of vege you can poke a stick at. That's more than enough hot food for a forecasted 28C day. Dessert - which is my area - will be frozen white chocolate icecream pudding with a bowlful of fresh raspberries mooshed in. If anyone's still calling out for more they'll be given some fresh cherries dipped in dark chocolate. I'm salivating like Pavlov's dog just writing about it.
On Boxing Day we're going to pretend that it's Christmas day all over again when my family come over. Again, Love Chunks will be handling the mains - char-grilled boneless greek lamb, yoghurt and mint sauce, oven-roasted potato wedges and salads. Me - chocolate cheesecake and fresh, chocolate-less cherries.
Throw in a few bowls of salted cashews, red and green M&Ms, grapes, chips and icy cold champagne, riesling and coopers ales, and life will be rather nice. Here's hoping that Sapphire and her cousins find enough food that's nice for them to eat. If not I'll open that old tin of fruit salad that's rusting away at the back of the pantry cupboard......