If you strip away all the pressure, the need to make everyone happy, the perfection, the competitive gift giving, the designer holiday decor, the exquisitely decorated cookies, carefully planned menus and coordinating wines, the endless trips to the shops, the laying awake worrying about who or what you might have forgotten or overlooked or somehow unintentionally slighted, and the general need to outdo everyone including yourself — then it might actually just be a holiday after all.
Just add love and forget about as many of the other things as you can. I’m pretty sure that’s what Christmas or whatever holiday you are celebrating, is actually supposed to be about.
This week we had a serious ice storm. It shut down our power for almost 24 hours. During the night, the house was absolutely silent – no furnace, no refrigerator running, no buzz or hum or any kind. The only sounds I heard were of the dog stretching and sighing, and the occasional patter of freezing rain against the house before it fell silent again.
I woke up feeling unusually refreshed. Re-booted. The ice was too treacherous to go anywhere and there was no power to do anything with – so no laundry, no cleaning, no cooking, no driving anywhere, no work, no shopping, no computer.
I ate leftover cold pizza and drank hot coffee for breakfast. And then I put on my snow gear and took my dog for a walk. She hesitated on the ice. Uncertain. We gained confidence as we went. At the end of my street is a riverfront park – I stopped to take a few photographs of the ice everywhere – layered on the grasses, the trees, on the river itself, on remaining oak leaves and berries on bushes whose names I don’t know.
Art all around me…..
icey grasses at the river’s edge
My dog was skidding along on the surface – throwing sticks for herself and watching as they slid away across the ice. It’s enough to make me love winter.
My family is home and instead of spending my days doing all the things I probably should be doing – I’m doing what I want to do. I’m going to walk my dog, meet a friend for coffee, and wander around a bit in downtown Kingston in the snow.
I didn’t put up a Christmas tree this year. I didn’t make a serious, brandy-soaked Christmas fruit cake. I haven’t got tins of baking stacked up sky-high. I haven’t rushed from shop to shop searching for elusive, unknown, perfect things.
But because it isn’t Christmas without some things – like shortbread and fruit cake – I’m making this simple, delicious, fruit pound cake. My mother’s old, English recipe. It doesn’t require steeping or soaking, or aging. It doesn’t need five pounds of assorted dried fruits. It doesn’t make enough fruitcake to last until the next year. You won’t need to recycle it or compost it or use it to build with.
I particularly like currants so I always use them even though they are increasingly hard to find. But I imagine you could just use more raisins and sultanas instead. And if you don’t like candied peel just skip it. If you don’t have glace cherries – try dried cranberries. Really you can do whatever you like with it – it’s very forgiving.
Just add love.
Mum’s English Fruit Pound Cake
6 oz (¾ cup) butter
6 oz (¾ cup) brown sugar
2 large dessert spoons of golden syrup (mum used a serving spoon, I remember. You can substitute fancy molasses – but try not to)
2 cups currants or use currants, raisins and sultanas mixed
2 ounces of candied peel (I never have this – so sometimes I add a tablespoon or two of marmalade or just skip it altogether)
2 ounces of glace cherries (I used about ¼ cup dried cranberries)
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
4 tbsp milk
Mix the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and golden syrup. Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and fruit. Stir into butter mix. Add milk.
Bake in a greased and floured ring cake pan (or whatever you like). Bake at 325 deg F for about 45 minutes or until cooked.