We spent our first Christmas in America. We were lucky to get back from our trip to the UK at all. It snowed a lot and the only two flights in 5 days happened to be the ones Hubby and then me and the children were booked on. Hubby claimed he had to be back two days before me to go to work. We all know the truth. It was to avoid being on the same flight as our 5 year old son! Being snowed in for 4 days in the UK before my departure prevented me from ramming my suitcases full and being charged for excess baggage. As it happens I was a whole suitcase short! Tragic. I could have filled it with Ribena!
As it happens I did smuggle some illegal substances to ensure we had a traditional English Christmas. I was keen to impress our American neighbours who were coming to lunch on Christmas day with our ‘traditional’ Christmas! We did bend the rules a little… Well a lot really. I didn’t feel like I could do Turkey because 1) I hate it and 2) it is a big thanks giving thing here and that would give them something to compare too and didn’t offer a unique ‘British’ experience so I opted for roast beef and all the trimmings. English mustard was a treat! Perhaps I should have warned that too much of it makes the back of your neck fizz and your nose burn! Particularly cruel when experienced by 5 year olds but very funny! I smuggled gravy mix in to the USA because their idea of gravy is grim and I can’t make it from scratch. They couldn’t get enough of the Yorkshire puds soaked in that English gravy. I was pleased on Christmas day but looking back now I am horrified that I FORGOT the parmesan parsnips (Delia of course) and the red onion marmalade- both waiting patiently in the fridge. I guess our visitors will not know what a hideous faux pas I made by not serving parsnips with beef! Oh the shame!
I did of course smuggle in a Marks and Spencer’s Christmas pudding. I soaked it in Brandy and set it alight. Impressive! Almost as explosive as the crackers I had packed in my suitcase. I wonder if they would have been considered as gunpowder. I heard somewhere that you could no longer buy Christmas crackers in the UK under the age of 16 because of the danger they posed. No idea if it is true but it seems very sad if it is! It also makes them the dodgiest of my illegal contraband! My guests loved the crackers and I got away with having cheap ones. They didn’t know that you are classified in the UK on the basis of the shit that comes out of crackers. I would never have got away with it at home!
The other tradition I ensured we honoured was to make sure copious amounts of alcohol were consumed. I have my own little mini tradition that I must drink champagne on Christmas day. (I know – you can take the girl out of Kings Norton… but I have come a long way from my Lambrini days! In fact – more like Lambrusco aspiring to have Asti Spumanti). So I fed my guests lots of Champagne- and who could resist? Have you tasted Californian Champagne?! Following that we served some very nice French Red. Our guests were a little perturbed by the French infiltration and claimed that on a blind taste test Napa Valley won over the French. I've yet to find Californian wine I like and you can only get Champagne from France and nothing else comes close! It is fair to say that by the end of dinner we were all jolly! Perhaps that is why I forgot key ingredients!
We have our own tradition of giving ‘table presents’ – cheap gifts for each person to amuse at the dinner table. I had a bit of a British theme going. One of the gifts was a little box of trivia questions – about the funny habits of the British. Our guest began asking us some of the questions although I had bought them to ‘test’ him. We knew most of them and I felt a warm glow at the quaint little habits, customs and nuances of the British. Questions such as ‘After driving to the coast, where is it said that the English eat their sandwiches?’ Where else but the car?! The question on street graffiti was barely started when Hubby and I both answered Banksy. Other topics were centered on things like Morris dancing, cheese rolling and gurning. Our guests were so shocked that they thought we must have pre read the questions. I felt smug! We knew tradition. Then a question was asked about which person was accused of eating his girlfriend’s hamster. We both knew the answers to that too. Perhaps it isn’t so much that we have more tradition (which goes without saying) but we also have something that is not good at all. We in Britain are united in a common knowledge. We have the tabloid press that reaches the whole nation on a daily basis. You don’t have to buy celeb mags to know the answers to such celeb shite because our press reports on it. More than that – It seeks it out and ignores significant news. I can still remember the front pages of the tabloid press reporting the ill-fated end to a poor hamster’s life, and I suspect the death of a celebrity career! On the other hand I knew all about the things that make Britain weird and wonderful. Now had that hamster been smeared in Mustard and followed by a nice cheese board and port… Well that would have been perfectly acceptable!