Monday, 12 December 2011
Window No. 12
My father worked for Rowntrees in York. If you haven't heard of the name (in which case you probably don't eat sweets), Rowntrees was a manufacturer of chocolates and other confectioneries. It is now owned by Nestle who have usurped the name, using their own instead.
Dad would regularly bring home boxes of seconds, chocolate bars and the suchlike that hadn't made the grade (I especially remember Cabana bars that had too much caramel in them) but at Christmas, his order would extend to include nuts, biscuits, and a powdered drink in a tin that fizzed up when you added water. There would always be a tin of Quality Street which when opened was a delight in itself with all the jewel-coloured wrappers. There would also be (mainly for my parents) a box of After Eight Mints which looked very sophisticated to me as a child in their individual black paper wrappers (which my parents always returned to the box empty, just to fool me).
My mother was an excellent cook when she put her mind to it. If she liked a recipe (like pork chops with stuffing on the top) then she would turn out a top quality dish. The result was rarely good though if you asked her to cook a food she disliked. Mushy peas had mysteriously hard lumps in them. My father rarely asked her to cook his favourite tripe and onions. In fact, he ended up cooking it himself. Maybe that was mum's plan all along.
On Christmas Day, Mum would be up long before the rest of us. Before the morning light reached through my curtains, I would hear pans clanging and the fridge door opening and closing, opening and closing, opening and slamming. My father knew better than to disturb her until she'd got into her stride.
Christmas lunch was extremely traditional. On the one occasion that my father suggested trying something a little different, my mother told him that in that case maybe he could cook Christmas lunch that year. It was a challenge that he didn't rise to and our regular Christmas lunch service was resumed - turkey (breast meat for my parents, leg meat for me), stuffing in and out of the bird, roast potatoes (I've never learnt how to make roasties as good as my mum), sprouts (from the vast batch grown in our garden), mashed potato and carrots. Gravy would be made in the pan with juices from the bird and water from the vegetables. Filled to the brim after eating this but never admitting defeat, we would be presented with a sherry trifle.
Shortly after we left the table, my mother would be happily snoring on the sofa while my father and I looked at our presents and watched TV. A little later, my father would quietly clear the table. We knew full well that come tea-time, Mum would be up and at 'em, bombarding us with sandwiches and mince pies. In the meantime though, we let her and our stomachs rest.