christmas

UNSOLICITED ADVICE

ON THE TWENTY-THIRD DAY OF CRANKVENT... FORGET THE CHRISTMAS PUD, GET SOME CHRISTMAS CLAFOUTIS

In the southern hemisphere there is a happy correlation between the festive season and cherry season. Why, then, isn't cherry clafoutis our national Christmas dish? Get on it, people!

Here are two recipes: the first is more traditional, the second a little more fail-proof (it contains a rising agent so you run less risk of a rubbery pudding). Not pitting the cherries means you have to be a bit more careful eating the finished dessert, but they become fabulously plump on cooking and the pips also impart a flavour of their own to the dish.

Jeff's Clafoutis (baked cherry custard)

  • 750g ripe black cherries, not pitted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 c (125g) sugar
  • 75g melted butter
  • 2/3 c (75g) plain flour
  • 1 c (250ml) milk
  • vanilla sugar

Preheat oven to 200C. Wash, dry and stem cherries.

Butter an ovenproof china or glazed earthenware mould large enough to hold the cherries in a single layer. Place the cherries inside.

Combine the eggs and yolk in a bowl, add the sugar and whisk until the mixture is pale in colour. Then whisk in the butter.

Sift in the flour and mix well, then mix in the milk. Continue beating until batter is smooth; pour over cherries.

Bake for 40 minutes or until browned. Remove from oven and sprinkle with vanilla sugar. Serve lukewarm, from the baking dish. Serves 6.

Sarah's clafoutis

  • 8 large ripe apricots or similar fruit (plums, cherries)
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 60g plain flour
  • 60g ground almonds
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 free-range eggs
  • 120ml milk
  • 180ml thickened cream
  • icing sugar, for dusting
  • pouring or clotted cream, to serve

Preheat oven to fan-forced 220C (240C conventional). Place caster sugar, flour, almonds and baking powder in a food processor and whiz until combined. (You can mix by hand if you don't have a food processor)

Whisk eggs, milk and cream in a bowl, then add egg mixture to the food processor and whiz until well combined. (See previous note vis-a-vis food processors)

Pour mixture around fruit and bake for 25-35 minutes or until golden and cooked. Dust with icing sugar and serve with cream. Serves 6-8.

(From Sunday Life magazine)

We're not claiming that cherry clafoutis can cure all diseases of the throat and lungs like Ayer's Cherry Pectoral could but it's still pretty good for what ails you (unless what ails you is dairy intolerance). Advertising postcard published by Dr J C Ayer & Co. c1870s. Wellcome Library, London, image no. L0041339.

We're not claiming that cherry clafoutis can cure all diseases of the throat and lungs like Ayer's Cherry Pectoral could but it's still pretty good for what ails you (unless what ails you is dairy intolerance). Advertising postcard published by Dr J C Ayer & Co. c1870s. Wellcome Library, London, image no. L0041339.

CRAZY TALK

ON THE TWENTIETH DAY OF CRANKVENT... WE NEED TO MOVE SOMETHING BIG

As much as we despise Northern Hemisphereans for dictating what Christmas 'is' we have to admit that logistically they have the whole thing sorted out quite well.

In northern climes, Christmas falls somewhere in the middle of the school year. The school year tends to start in September and end somewhere in June so they can send all their kiddies off to school camp for the summer, to play in poison ivy and fall out of canoes and so forth. So Christmas is a relatively peaceful blip, when carols and tinsel and fruit mince pies can be applied and appreciated at a more gentle pace. (Certainly in the US Christmas feels quite low-key after the stress of organising the perfect family Thanksgiving).

But here in the south, our summer holidays coincide with Christmas. That means we end up doing EVERYTHING all at the same time. School reports! End of year concerts! Summer holiday planning!

Clearly one or the other has to change—either we shift the school year, or we shift Christmas. Moving Christmas seems by far the easier option—and, as has been pointed out by previous correspondents, Christ was probably born in September so he mightn't mind so much if we choose another arbitrary date to celebrate his birth. Let's face it—if he was around now, all of his friends would have pissed off down to Barwon Heads for his birthday anyway. Plus, then we could Christmas-in-July for realsies. 

Write a letter to your MP today!

This woman feels faint even just thinking about all the stuff she has to get done by Christmas and has had to retire to her divan. [Lady sleeping on couch], ca. 1900. Glass lantern slide, State Library of Victoria, accession number H33823/39.

This woman feels faint even just thinking about all the stuff she has to get done by Christmas and has had to retire to her divan. [Lady sleeping on couch], ca. 1900. Glass lantern slide, State Library of Victoria, accession number H33823/39.


CRAZY TALK

ON THE THIRTEENTH DAY OF CRANKVENT... CHRISTMAS IS SPECIEST

Why do we all assume Santa is a human? What if in fact he (or she - gender issues are a matter for another time) was a creature that combined the gift selection and present-wrapping abilities of humans and the strength, endurance and magical-delivery skills of a reindeer? What if in fact Father (or Mother) Christmas is... a SANTAUR?

It's time to take off our human-centric blinkers.

Image from mcphee.com.

REPROACH

ON THE TWELFTH DAY OF CRANKVENT... STEP AWAY FROM THE BUNNY

The problem starts at Easter. It’s tempting, we know: there’s a mountain of aphrodisiac (chocolate) shaped into potent fertility symbols (eggs) and prodigiously reproducing animals (bunnies). Plus the truly devout have just spent a month abstaining… so it’s easy to fall into the sticky, chocolaty, heteronormative arms of another and, well, make babies.

But these poor Easter foetuses are cursed, CURSED we tell you, by a pitiable, life-staining fate: a birthday at Christmastime. Before you unite your Good Friday gametes, put yourself in the shoes of your future child.

First, your name will reflect your shame. You will be dubbed Christopher or Christine after the little baby Jeebus (who, scholars tell us, was actually born in September). Or maybe Nicholas, or Rudolph, or Frosty. Or perhaps your mother will nickname you ‘Pud’ because you’re her little Christmas pudding; and, because we all grow into our names, you will be a plump, overcooked child with an unnatural attachment to baked goods.

Next come the primary school years. You will dutifully attend your peers’ happy, thronging birthday parties all the year through. But when yours rolls around, they’re all holidaying in Bali, or Byron Bay, or the Barwon Heads caravan park. No party. No reciprocal presents. No fair.

The presents, when they come, IF they have not been subsumed into some sort of abominable ‘combined Christmas-birthday’ chimera, will be wrapped in Christmas paper. They might even be under a Christmas tree. But don’t bother opening them: all the good toys were sold out, and you're left with the obscure Star Wars characters like Snaggletooth, who admittedly will be worth a lot in 30 or so years but that doesn't really help you now. 

When you grow up, your colleagues will not wish you many happy returns. No, their pity is all you get: 'You poor thing! Must suck having a birthday so close to Christmas.' Then, because they’re too stuffed with mince pies and Lindt reindeers that we all know are repackaged rabbits, they won’t eat any of the birthday cake that you’re still required to bring in under Australian workplace law. That’s if they haven’t already pissed off to Barwon Heads. 

Don’t think you can have any fun outside work either, because your nearest and dearest already have 36,573 Christmas parties to go to. They won’t come. But it’s alright, because you wouldn’t be able to go out anywhere anyway since everything’s either booked out or closed. Which leaves you at home alone, with nothing on telly except Home Alone.

And it will be stinking hot. 

SO STOP THERE, you fornicating Easter bunny. Be tempted not by those hot buns, leave those Easter eggs unfertilised, and stop this cruelty in its tracks: simply do not procreate in the third month of the year.

And spare some Xmas cheer for the unfortunate extant Chrises and Puds who never asked to be born in late December. Discard your foam antlers, divest yourself of tinsel, decline an RSVP and just wish them a plain old secular happy birthday.

CHRIS @astrocave and PUD @cakehelmit

The sell-out one-man two-hour monologue  Alone  starred George Rignold as Colonel Challice, a bitter, unhappy Colonel called Challice whose friends always pissed off to Barwon Heads at Christmas and missed his birthday party. The controversial ending involved the Colonel smearing birthday cake all over his body and hurling handfuls of Christmas pudding at the audience.  George Rignold as Colonel Challice in 'Alone' , chalk lithograph by Richard Wendel, printed by Troedel & Co. lithographers, 1878. State Library of Victoria, H2000.180/77 

The sell-out one-man two-hour monologue Alone starred George Rignold as Colonel Challice, a bitter, unhappy Colonel called Challice whose friends always pissed off to Barwon Heads at Christmas and missed his birthday party. The controversial ending involved the Colonel smearing birthday cake all over his body and hurling handfuls of Christmas pudding at the audience. George Rignold as Colonel Challice in 'Alone', chalk lithograph by Richard Wendel, printed by Troedel & Co. lithographers, 1878. State Library of Victoria, H2000.180/77 

UNSOLICITED ADVICE

ON THE ELEVENTH DAY OF CRANKVENT... WISH ME SEASON'S GREETINGS LIKE YOU MEAN IT

One of the things I like best about this time of year is that any piece of mail I receive is statistically significantly less likely to be a bill than at any other time of year (except my birthday). That’s right, it’s Christmas card season!

I love Christmas cards. I love the ones with glitter, the ones with puns, the ones made by small children, the ugly ones you possibly received unasked from a charity and thought you’d put to good use, the short ones, the long ones, the “Christmas letter” ones, the incongruous Northern Hemispherean ones and the ostentatiously Australian ones. I cluster them on the mantel and tuck them under books on the bookcase, face out and hanging over the shelf edge, a seasonal exhibit of good will and fond wishes. Hurrah!!

I am also an enthusiastic sender of Christmas cards and I know they can be a lot of work. Even writing and stuffing and addressing maybe 20 cards can take you a good chunk of an evening. And what if you actually have to go to a post office to buy stamps?! Horror. (Particularly if all they have left are inappropriately jolly Christmas Island stamps—how embarrassing). So don’t think I begrudge anyone who chooses not to send Christmas cards—I don’t make a note of it in my ledger of Christmas cheer. Christmas is also not everyone's cup of tea. No card? No biggie.

Now, I’m hesitant to raise this issue, because obviously I like receiving Christmas cards and I don’t want to put people off, but there is ONE type of Christmas card I occasionally receive that makes me feel downcast. You may recognise it. On opening the card you see the printed greeting—Season’s Greetings! Or Merry Christmas! Or Happy Holidays!—with your own name written above, and their name written below.

That’s it.

This card does not bring joy. This card has all the appearance of a chore, and an aura to match. There’s enough to do in the lead-up to Christmas—if your heart’s not in card-writing, don’t torture yourself. It is totally fine to post a seasonal Facebook update these days, nobody minds. Or to do nothing at all (cf Christmas not being everyone's cup of tea). This is not Victorian England, nobody will ‘cut’ you at a ball because one didn’t receive one’s customary Christmas greetings. [1] Let yourself off the hook.

ALICE CANNON, MELBOURNE

[1] If they do, they are a cad and a bounder and probably also a wastrel.

Are they really? Really and truly sincere? Do you swear it? Swear it! (This is a hand-painted card so the greetings probably were reasonably sincere). [Christmas card to sister], watercolour on card, painted by Charlie Hammond over a photomechanical print,1946. State Library of Victoria, H90.72/42a.

Are they really? Really and truly sincere? Do you swear it? Swear it! (This is a hand-painted card so the greetings probably were reasonably sincere). [Christmas card to sister], watercolour on card, painted by Charlie Hammond over a photomechanical print,1946. State Library of Victoria, H90.72/42a.