African Vanielje on Dec 16 2007 at 5:22 pm | Filed under: Uncategorized
Christmas has not yet really started for me this year, which is odd because it usually starts bang on December the first. At the beginning of the month I managed to get myself to the starting line, I even produced an advent calendar for Dakota, made a batch of mince pies, and then I fizzled out. I’ve been blaming it on loads of work and not enough time, but I have finally admitted that I am sulking.
I hate being away from my family at Christmas, and this year they are firmly in Africa and we are firmly in Somerset. Well, Dakota and I are, but Rory is still away working. And that just intensifies my sulk.
I woke up this morning and while I was contemplating my ceiling and wondering whether or not Dakota might bring me tea in bed (she only ever brings it for Rory but I remain hopeful), I heard her singing snatches of Christmas carols between practice blasts on her trumpet. Yes, she plays the trumpet at school, and it’s a measure of how much I love her that I make no demur on the odd weekend that she brings it home to practice.
And that was the moment. The moment that the Christmas spirit finally emerged with all the enthusiasm of a hungry bear after a long winter’s hibernation. Yes, I still miss my mom, but on reflection, there are many this Christmas who are missing loved ones with a lot more finality than I am, so I have decided to count my blessings and get on with it.
So with the encouraging presence of both the Christmas Spirit and my mother, and The White Christmas Album on the CD player, I have spent the day in a frenzy of baking and decorating. We have not yet got our tree up, but Dakota and I will choose one tomorrow and decorate it together.
But these are all incidental to the one thing that really makes me feel Christmassy~ the Truly Remarkable Once a Year Cake.
This is a relatively new tradition in our family, which started when my nephew was about three. Most nights my dad would read him poetry before he went to sleep, and one Christmas we discovered a poem called ‘The Truly Remarkable Once A Year Cake’. This cake was made up of all the truly awful things that so delight the imagination of a child, and if memory serves correctly, it ends up exploding.
How this became linked to our Christmas cake, I’m not sure, but the connection is now inextricable. My dad adores fruit cake, and my mom used to have aged fruit cake served with vintage cheddar on her dessert menu for years. She would make 2 or 3 cakes and put them away to mature for a few weeks. When they were ready to serve the waiters would all be duly informed and inevitably, the orders would fly in. My dad wasn’t the only one with a passion for fruitcake. The tins would be opened and the rich boozy smell would rush out to tantalise and tempt, only to be followed in short order by the realisation that there were only a few pieces left. My father, unable to resist (or wait the requisite 3 weeks) had been slowly and unrepentantly nibbling away. Eventually, my mom capitulated and took it off the menu, and ever since then it has only made an appearance once a year at Christmas.
As the years have passed I have developed a passion for cake art. So my mom bakes and I paint, and every year the Truly Remarkable Once A Year Cake is delivered. Only this year I have both baked and painted, and not one but several individual fruitcakes which will be given as gifts. The best gift though, is the remembrance of something I love to do, and although I normally do it with my mom, just doing it made me feel closer to her, and to the spirit of Christmas.
I think I’ll just give her a ring and remind her to finish her own Once A Year Cake. I have a feeling she’s been sulking too…
where she invites you to read some more stories of love, laughter and memories in the kitchen.
Don’t forget to check out the Vanielje Kitchen Cook Book
or my Fabulous Fruit Cake recipe