Friday, 25 December 2009

A Christmas message (or Yule Blog, if you prefer)

Happy Christmas to one and all, and especially to you, my dear bloggy friends. I realise I'm probably not the first to wish you the compliments of the season, but this does not diminish the sincerity of my wishes.

Each nation has its own peculiar customs. By 'peculiar' I do not, of course, mean weird, odd, strange, call it what you will; but rather, 'singular'. It may be a particular mode of dress, a type of dance, a sport, or even a national characteristic. Most of our national customs seem to be crammed into a single day of the year - Christmas Day. It is, of course, customary for us to eat turkey (with 'all the trimmings', whatever they might be), Christmas pudding and mince pies. But there are so many other little bits and pieces associated with Christmas, and particularly Christmas dinner, that change what could be a simple meal at home with the family into a nightmare of complexity. You've got the turkey; now, what about stuffing? And those little chipolatas wrapped in bacon? Oh, and the cranberry and bread sauce that hardly anyone likes? And not forgetting the brandy butter for the pudding...

It fell to me to make the brandy butter. How hard could it be, I thought. Get some butter and mix it with brandy. But no, it isn't that simple. You have to stick sugar in it as well, and beat it until it attains a smooth consistency. So, I took equal amounts of butter and sugar, and combined them (the chefs love the expression 'combined', don't they?) in a bowl until, it seemed to me, they were of the smooth consistency aforesaid. At this point I tipped in some South African brandy (there was no expense spared in the Hale household, I can tell you!) and then whisked the agglomeration as if my life depended upon it. As indeed it might have. The resultant mixture very closely resembled the substance called brandy butter, that I had seen on sale in the various food emporia in the run-up to Christmas.

I tasted it. It tasted buttery and brandyfied, I grant you. But there was something curious in its consistency. It was not the smooth paste I had anticipated. It seemed...well...gritty. It reminded me somewhat of the sensation you get when you bite into a bit of seafood from which not all of the sand has been eradicated. This wasn't brandy butter. It was Sandy Brandy. Or possibly Sandy Butter. Of course, Mrs. H was supportive as always, saying that it didn't matter, but that next time I might try using icing sugar to reduce the...grittiness. Anyway, there being no time to experiment with alternative ingredients, the Seaford Shingle Butter, or Brandy Gravel, or whatever the heck it was, had a cooling session in the fridge and then was duly placed upon the Christmas table as the tradional accompaniment to the (sensibly) shop-bought pudding.

I noted that its spell in the cooler had changed my Sussex Brandy Pebble-dash. It had started to separate, and now looked suspiciously like a tub of value range humous, or that lumpy mix that forms in the cheese vat just after the rennet has been added. An hour in the kitchen's answer to the naughty step had only served to make it even more unpleasant than when it started out. I gave it a quick twirl with a fork, hoping to force the ingredients into some kind of homogeneity, but it was no good. There had clearly been a falling-out in that particular marriage.

As we ate our pudding, no. 1 daughter had pushed a spoon into the centre of the admixture, leaving a little depression. The brandy started to exude from the solids to form a little pool in this concavity. The thing now looked like some terrible medical emergency; a huge, suppurating wen, perhaps; or a long untreated bedsore. At daughter's behest I scooped out a tiny amount of the glistening, purulent liquid and tasted it. It was clearly a mixture of brandy and sugar that somehow managed to combine the worst characteristics of each ingredient, whilst eschewing anything good that might otherwise have been present. I couldn't bear to be it the same room as this creature any longer.

I was all for chucking it down the sink, but Mrs. H quite rightly pointed out that our drains are over a century old. So it went into a bin bag. It's been very quiet since.

The rest of the meal was fine, by the way.

Happy Christmas.


Derrick said...

OK, admit it Chris, this was just a ploy so that Mrs H won't be tempted to enlist your culinary expertise in future?! Actually, I've never been bothered about brandy butter; cream or good old custard are fine with me. But I DO like bread and cranberry sauces, especially when homemade.

Hope you managed to find something to take away the nasty taste (of your brand butter) and that your celebrations continue throughout the weekend. Merry Christmas.

chris hale said...

Derrick, I don't know what you mean!

The bread sauce (but not the cranberry) was made by my own fair hands, and, I'm glad to say, passed muster! And as for something to take away the taste of the brandy gravel...I must admit to having partaken of a few morsels of sweetmeats!

A happy Christmas to you and yours, and all good wishes for a prosperous new year.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

I think the sandy brandy sounds rather nice! I will ask Girth to have a go at making some.

Our Giraffe World customs are different to yours on planet Earth, but your puddings, bread sauce and such-like sound worthy of emulation!

Best wishes for the rest of the holiday!

chris hale said...

Hi Raph. Let me know how you get on with the Sandy Brandy!

Not sure if it's holiday time for you, but nevertheless I wish you the compliments of the season!

willow said...

Warm, woolly wishes for a wonderful 2010, to you and yours, Chris!

chris hale said...

Thank you, Willow. And a very happy new year to you and yours!