Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Spirit of Christmas

Bah! Humbug!

photograph picture image of sam breach christmas 1968
The author, Christmas 1968

After pondering on what the Spirit of Christmas means to me for several days, my memory was eventually jogged by nothing more complex than a smell. Arriving at my office one Monday morning to find they had decorated the lobby with a tree and other decorations, I was immediately struck by the strong smell of fresh pine needles. Suddenly it felt like Christmas was just around the corner.

Christmas in my homeland, England, always felt more real to me than it does here in my adopted City of San Francisco. Maybe it's the chill temperature and the outside chance it might snow. Maybe it's the fact that British Children leave a cheeky glass of sherry and a Mince Pie for Father Christmas instead of the far less intoxicating milk and cookie that the American kids believe Santa prefers. I am surprised the youngsters here aren't complaining more often that they get the wrong presents. Surely the old boy in the red and white bobble hat must be drunk to the point of comatose by the time he crosses the Atlantic?

Since moving to the US, despite trying hard to forge my own traditions, Christmas has never felt quite right for me. Although a part of me longs to be in the bosom of my family for this grand, once a year feast, most of the things (crackers excepted) that are typically found at a British yuletide lunch have always failed to impress me . I don't care much for turkey, I detest brussel sprouts and as a kid I found every manner of vegetable abhorent, except for the delicious roast potatoes which, along with the bread sauce and the gravy, would have been the only things on my plate had my mother allowed.

I didn't fare any better when it came to dessert. My lifetime aversion to raisins, sultanas and currants meant mince pies were out and the christmas pudding, burning with blue flames after being doused in brandy, was nothing more than an interesting spectacle. Hic, hic. There go the Brits, adding alcohol into the mix again. But talking of spirits, all is never lost on that count if your mother made it up to you with a good old sherry trifle. Maybe that's what I need to whip up for myself this year, to bring back a little bit of seasonal essence to my Bah! Humbug-heart.

This musing was taken from an interview with Andrew Barrow that first appeared on Slashfood.

PS There is nothing bah humbug about me when it comes to supporting this good cause. Have you made a donation to Unicef yet?

Archive Alert! On this date in 2004: Small Shed Flatbreads in Mill Valley.

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The Spirit of Christmas


  • At 21/12/05 09:01, Blogger cookiecrumb said…

    When I was little, my dad advised me that Santa might like me to leave out a snifter of brandy and a bowl of freshly shelled walnuts. Fine.
    Imagine my horror in the morning to discover that Santa had gone and fetched more nuts and the nutcracker, leaving shells all over the table next to my Christmas list.
    PS: You've very nearly talked me out of the plum pudding this year.

  • At 21/12/05 10:20, Blogger BREAKWATER BIRD said…

    Loved your "Spirit of Christmas"!

    Having posh parents from the "Olde Country", our merry meal included all the goodies mentioned in your delightful article plus "hard sauce", (icing sugar, butter and brandy...or perhaps it was sherry).

    Me Mum was a great cook who always kept her sherry glass handy. And she simply adored making "hard sauce" ...a sweet treat designed to titillate the tongues of wobbly tipplers. If I recall, the wee tikes had to make do with another version (icing sugar, butter and lemon juice)...bah humbug.

    By the way, if you're looking for a funny fancy wine to go with your Christmas cookery ...take a peek at the puckish list given in "Nifty Names for Nectars of the Gods" over at The Quipping Queen

  • At 21/12/05 10:57, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Ahhh... you look so cute! :)

    i'm not a big fan of turkey either but it's even weirder during x'mas when your parents are vegetarian. tofurkey anyone? :9

  • At 21/12/05 11:41, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Now could part of the reason you didnt like the Christmas fare was that you were always too full of sweets and chocs and never really hungry. Although I shouldn't say so myself you did look rather cute in your little homemade dress.

  • At 21/12/05 11:46, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    So funny Sam!
    I hear you about plum pud!
    My Irish hubbie's family has tried for years now to endoctrinate me with plum pud and I really hate it! ;-) I don't get the "ah, oh, ah" in front of the blue flame either! I bet it is because they probably drown the thing in brandie!
    Instead, last year, I did this! Na! I could choose!

    Happy Xmas!

  • At 21/12/05 12:46, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Ooooooh, i think i had a dress just like that.

    By the way, got a new computer at work, which wiped out all of my e-mail addresses. Will you drop me a line?

  • At 21/12/05 13:07, Blogger cookiecrumb said…

    Sam's Mum: That dress (I assume you made it) was rather stylish! Were you a Mod?

  • At 21/12/05 13:44, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Oh my - you look like a little doll Sam.

  • At 21/12/05 15:22, Blogger Monkey Gland said…

    I ask you, does anyone actually like turkey? I mean does anyone cook it at any other time of year? Apart from bodybuilders?

  • At 21/12/05 17:42, Blogger Delphine said…

    Forget about turkey...give me a chapon instead, slurp.

    You were a very cute little girl. ooooh :)

  • At 22/12/05 08:04, Blogger Sam said…

    I wish i had time to nswer everyone's comments individually but i will be late for work!

    So instead I just thank you for them and mention I can't imagine where I would have gotten sweet and chocolates on Christmas Day unless my mother had given them to me.

    and yes - my mum used to be good at making clothes. I am the cook, she is the seanstress. I can't sew for toffee.

  • At 22/12/05 18:36, Blogger Civic Center said…

    Well, it's too bad you have nixed turkey for our potluck Christmas feast, because somwhere along the way I learned how to cook a big turkey with wet creme-fraiche-crouton-herbal-nut dressing stuffed under the skin basting for seven hours, and it's pretty much one of the most delicious things in the world.

    It's also a pain in the ass and lots of work so thanks for letting me off the hook. We're cooking a lovely sacrificial lamb stew instead.

  • At 22/12/05 19:29, Blogger Sam said…

    ah mikey
    that does sound good its true, I am sorry, but it wasnt entirely my fault.
    let's blame vinny for his bad organisation skills and not making it clear from the beginning that that decision had been made.

    mybe we can let you do the turkey in the new year for a special occasion in its own right. i have a spare one in the freezer.

  • At 23/12/05 16:47, Blogger Civic Center said…

    No worries. The lamb stew is really a lot less work than a monster turkey, and I can cook it the day before so it sits in its own flavors overnight and gets even more delicious. Merry Bah Humbug!

  • At 23/12/05 18:26, Blogger Sam said…

    merry indeed - see you on sunday x

  • At 24/12/05 06:06, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I have been bah humbuging EVERYTHING since I read this the other day, it sure helps immensly thanks Sam :)

    Hope you have a fubulicious Christmas!


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