The Playfriends welcome Natalie Anderson back to the blog today! She brings with her tidings of Christmas -- which would normally make me have to throw something at her for bringing this up in October, but I will get on board with this time because it's all about food. And you know how I love food.
Sweet As Christmas!
As it’s October, all the Christmas decorations are up in the shop and the countdown has officially begun. In fact there are Christmas themed romances available already – and yes, I’ve got one out there too! ~g~
Here in New Zealand, it's summer at Christmas – although invariably its an overcast drizzly day (the real summer heat doesn’t hit us here in the South Island until late January and February). For me the best thing – apart from catching up with all the friends and family of course – is the food. It doesn’t take much to release my inner glutton and Christmas is one of those times when she’s fully unleashed. In fact we have a phrase in our house if anyone has overeaten at any time – then they’re feeling ‘Christmas Uncomfortable’.
For years we did the ‘traditional’ Christmas dinner – roast lamb or something, roast potatoes, okay maybe some new potatoes as well, cauliflower and cheese sauce, peas, carrots… sometimes Turkey although not that often. There’s always a giant ham. Nowadays we tend to cook on the BBQ. Actually, I should mention I’m vegetarian, so I just dive into the veggies. I love vegetables and don’t need a separate veggie main dish. Well okay, it leaves more room for PUDDING.
Yes I admit it, it’s the pudding I love at Christmas. Here in New Zealand the traditional is the Pavlova (the Australians will argue it’s ‘their’ national dish, but they’re wrong). It’s made of egg whites and sugar and is like a giant meringue, with a crunchy crust on the outside and a wall of marshmallowy yum stuff on the inside. We top it with whipped cream and then either raspberries (perfection) or strawberries, flaked chocolate at a push. It is heaven on a plate and everyone loves it. Everyone. It takes a while to cook – we often leave it in the oven overnight. And thank goodness for electric mixers because back in the ‘old days’ my Great-Uncle used to beat the egg whites by hand and it was a lot of work (you know they’re ready when the whites are smooth and glossy and when you hold the bowl above your head, it doesn’t all fall out!) And then there’s the terribly tricky moment of having to transfer it from tray to plate – fortunately you can cover a lot of sins with all that whipped cream ;)
There might be a Trifle as well, or Spanish Cream, Christmas cake, fruit salad, but it’s always the Pav that has my heart. But here’s the real secret. The Pav is not the best on Christmas Day. Nope, if ever you have Christmas in New Zealand here is what you must know.
Early, EARLY in the morning on Boxing Day you must get up, tiptoe to the kitchen and find the plate that’s on a precarious angle near the back, balanced on top of a ton of other stuff – hopefully far away from the ham. Fridges are never big enough at Christmas, do you find that? Anyway, under a piece of cling wrap, you’ll find that very last piece. Now it isn’t going to be that pretty – Pav tends to fall apart once you cut into it – so it is like a more marshmallowy version of Eton Mess at this point. But it’s cold and so delicious. You eat it standing up in front of the fridge, still in your summer PJs and quietly. Because there’s only ever enough for one. It is the most decadent breakfast of the year. And it’s MINE. But if you’re ever in New Zealand for Christmas, I will share it with you – maybe! Of course we have Pavs all year round – there’re at any BBQ or celebration. But it is that one early on Boxing Day Morning that’s the best of the year. Maybe its like the dessert equivalent of ‘hair of the dog’ or whatever, and giving you that little sugar lift after the crash down from the Christmas Day feast – I’m not sure, but its soooooo good. And I’m very much looking forward to it this year.
What Christmas foodie traditions are you most looking forward to this festive season? Is there something always served up on the day that makes you smile just to think of it? Comment below and be in to win a copy of ‘TIS THE SEASON – an anthology of Christmas novellas by Carole Mortimer, Alison Roberts and me.
Natalie’s Christmas novella “The Millionaire’s Mistletoe Mistress” is in the ‘TIS THE SEASON anthology is out now and will be followed up by CAUGHT ON CAMERA which is out in the US in December. For more details on her other stories, check out her website.
She’s also on Facebook and Twitter.
I have some winners to announce:
robynl, you're Angel's winner from last Monday. Email Angel to claim (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Kelly Fitzpatrick, you're my launch party winner -- email me with your snail mail addy. (Problemchild@writingplayground.com)