My family doesn’t eat a traditional Christmas dinner.
We never saw the point in cooking up a load of sprouts and spuds when none of us would list such delicacies amongst our favourite foods. It’s not that we actively dislike the components of the traditional Christmas dinner; it’s more that we don’t see it as being a particularly exciting meal.
“Why don’t we start our own traditional Christmas dinner?” suggested Mum one year when The Sister and I were quite small. Mum always has good ideas. It was decided that our starter would be Mum’s speciality salmon mousse, which, honestly, is out of this world – and I’m really not a fan of fishy stuff in general. This is eaten with little biscuit things, lettuce, and a chorus of mmmmms.
The main course is heaven on a plate. Tender steaks in a wonderfully calorific creamy mushroom and pepper sauce; garlic potatoes (drenched in garlic butter); onion rings; fresh, buttered rolls (or “baps”, in Norn Irish). My tummy is rumbling now. Silence tends to descend upon the table as we get to grips with this annual feast – my family takes food quite seriously, you see. And this cream sauce is like no other in the entire world. The Sister is a refined, elegant, sophisticated lady these days, but at this one meal every year she is guaranteed to abandon all table manners and actually lick her plate clean. You think I’m jesting, don’t you? Heh.
Dessert tends to be something chocolately – usually at least an hour after dinner, owing to the disgustingly greedy bingeing in which we have just indulged.
And to drink? Always White Grape Shloer. Initially, this was just to make The Sister and me feel grown up, when we were too young to drink wine. However, it became an integral part of the menu for us, and we refused to switch to real wine even when we were given permission to do so at the age of *cough* eighteen. It’s just not the same without Shloer.
I’m not sure what I’m going to do this year. I’ve already sampled a typical Estonian Christmas dinner, and while it was certainly nice, there was a sufficiently overwhelming combination of foreign flavours to last me for quite some time. Goose fillet with garlic potatoes (which are often different here – instead of garlic butter, they use a creamy garlic sauce, and it’s extremely yummy), cranberry sauce and various confusing vegetables, most of which were nice. The sauerkraut was not so nice. I keep trying it, because I want to be eating traditional local foods wherever I go, but it just has a really weird taste that I can’t get used to at all. Oh – and of course there was the black pudding, which was great, especially since it was actually called black pudding on the menu. I’m the kind of person who can’t eat certain things if I think too much about what’s in them. I hate people who start talking about what goes into processed foods when we’re sitting in McDonald’s, for example. I won’t be able to finish my McChicken Sandwich. The same goes for black pudding, which the Estonians insist on calling “blood sausage” on their menus. Or, worse – “bloody sausage”. There’s absolutely no way I’m ordering that, but I’ll happily order “black pudding”. I don’t care how ridiculous this sounds. Since when did I promise to make sense?
I sampled my Estonian Christmas dinner in a gorgeous little restaurant called Vanaema Juures (“Grandma’s Place”), hidden away underground in the Old Town. I had “Granny’s Christmas Meal” followed by “Grandma’s Cake” (ginger cake with whipped cream) and “Grandma’s Herb Tea”. The restaurant is decorated just as you’d expect a litte old lady’s home to be, down to the patterned wallpaper, the old photographs on the mantlepiece, and a loudly ticking clock that chimes every half hour. Cosy little place, lovely staff, and good, hearty food – perfect after an afternoon’s walking and exploring in the dark and cold!
Maybe, if I ask nicely, “Grandma” will make me the Christmas meal that I’m used to having. Otherwise, I’m going to have to come up with my own Alternative Christmas Dinner, following in my mother’s footsteps. Decisions, decisions…