I’m a complete pushover! So no surprises then that I’ve volunteered (‘no’ isn’t in my vocabularly) for a family Christmas dinner before the kids take off to NZ on the 18th. You would have thought that I could have taken it easy this year with only the Englishman and myself to worry about (oh, and the fur babies!), but no, I’ve invited the Englishman’s parents, his brother, his brother’s kids, his brother’s girlfriend and her kids for Christmas dinner. That’s a total of 7 children/teenagers and 6 adults for lunch.
So I started organising a menu of sorts last night and sat down with all the battered and splattered cookbooks of Christmases past. I always go through the routine of looking through the cooking magazines though I rarely deviate from a couple of tried and true recipes. Until now that is.
Christmas will be very different this year. Not only because it will include different people, (my new husband, my new in-laws..) but also because it won’t be the ‘prawns on the Barbie Christmas I’m used to Down Under. So Christmas dinner will be more of a dinner, and a blend of old favourites and some new-to-us recipes in a nod to the cooler temperature, and of course the credit crunch.
So instead of Pav & strawberries we’ll be having Christmas pud and lashings of brandy sauce. Instead of salads, we’ll be thinking brussels sprouts and green beans. I won’t be basting the turkey in my swimsuit and jumping into the pool in between bastings, this year!
Organising the menu and the shopping list I reflected on how Christmas is one of those occasions that reinforces the traditions that bind a family. For a blended family like ours there’s a few wrinkles to iron out, like salads, turkey, people and the presents too.
As money is tight I suggested to my Englishman that we allocate a £10 per head per person limit for presents. He wasn’t impressed with this concept and when he explained his gift list I realised why. In his family of origin they buy pressies for all the relatives, even the hideous ones! I’m the product of two large Catholic families so we gave up buying for the cuzzies a long time ago in favour of spending more on the family unit – Mum, Dad and the kids. The conversation about gifts and shopping lists took a turn for the worse when we discussed amounts. Although I’m working hard, I’m not earning at the moment so budgeting for Christmas is really difficult. Add in a difference of gift-giving styles and wham there’s fireworks.
‘It doesn’t seem like a lot unless you’re the one paying it,’ said the Englishman crossly. Ouch.
‘It’s only a lot because you want to buy everyone something, and spend more money on them. Haven’t we made our contribution with the Christmas dinner?’ I retorted. Double ouch.
Ah yes the season of good will.
My Englishman’s family have always given modest sensible presents – a fleece or some socks –something a tad boring. This is in stark contrast to my family who have always erred on the side of excess and bought two or three fabulous presents each!!! Much time and care and money was spent on the day itself, the food, the ambience, the table decorations, and the champagne. Yes it was superficial but like most frivolous things, it was fun!!!
As an aside, my Englishman told me bluntly that I would be the only one to know whether the champagne we supplied was any good or not. Hmm, scratch the cheap bottles of Moet at Morrisons then. Sigh.
As I drove (grumpily) to the shops to start the Xmas shopping-fest I realised that putting on a Christmas for a blended family is like the blending process in cooking. The process of blending involves breaking down the various parts so that they can mix together and become a new whole. You’ve got to really break the eggs to make the cake! So, on the one hand we need to maintain the essence of our old traditions, in order to give us the feeling of a family Christmas – tradition is important to children and adults alike – yet on the other hand we need to mix it up a bit so that everyone feels they are involved and that the new gourmet delight represents our new lives. We need a soupcon of a little from North Yorkshire, some of this from New Zealand, a little of that from my family of origin, and a dollop of this from the in-laws’ tradition, and a whole heap of new fruit and spice from the new family life that is crazy, chaotic, challenging and all ours.
How do you whip up a new Christmas treat as expats,or as new (sometimes blended) families?
image: EGG AND WHISK (WITH MOTION BLUR)
© Gina Rothfels