A commonplace book was a collection of useful and educational ideas, recipes for food and medicine, quotable quotes and happy thoughts. As a supplement to Christmas cards, people used to send their own commonplace books (perhaps the most famous being that of TV personality and writer John Julius Norwich). Here is our Christmas card to our readers, in our Christmas collation….
Waste not, want not…
In Brenda Ross’s house every part of the annual free turkey was eaten with relish…
Every year, employees at the firm my father worked for were given a fresh turkey, a bottle of Bristol Cream Sherry and a bottle of Stone’s Ginger Wine. At that time poultry was expensive and not widely available, so chicken was a once-a-year treat. Turkey was even more unusual and well beyond the financial reach of most. We were the only family I knew who had ever eaten one.
On Christmas Eve, Dad brought home the freshly plucked bird, which had been handed to each employee.
We always called our turkey Cuthbert. I have no idea how this started, but every year as soon as the bird arrived we talked of cooking, carving or eating Cuthbert, never ‘the turkey’.
It was always a very large bird, completely filling the oven. As well as eating Cuthbert hot for Christmas dinner at midday, we had cold slices for tea, eaten with pickles and ham. This would be a tin of Ye Olde Oak ham in jelly. The distinctive pear-shaped tin would be put on the top shelf of the cupboard, and we all knew it was not to be used until Christmas.
Cuthbert fed our family of five for several days, but there were never any complaints because it was such a treat and it provided a welcome ease to the household finances. When every
possible scrap had been carved, the carcase was broken up and the bones stewed to make soup.
The biggest treat of all was the dripping. After Cuthbert was cooked on Christmas Day the fat was poured off and left to cool in two china basins of delicious dripping. Spread on bread and sprinkled with salt and pepper, it made a tasty change from the usual bread and jam for tea. It was especially tasty when we were well down the basin and the white dripping on the bread was streaked with brown jelly from the juices at the bottom. When every scrap of dripping had been carefully picked out of the basin, my mother would melt down these jellied juices and use them in gravy.
As for the bottles that my father brought home with Cuthbert, my parents drank a glass of sherry with their Christmas dinner and
we children were allowed a little ginger wine. I didn’t like the taste, but drank it because it was the only opportunity to have a grown up drink.
My parents seldom drank alcohol – my mother didn’t really approve of it – so the sherry only came out at Christmas and Easter, or when relatives called.
I think it was only brought out then so as to boast that my father’s firm gave it to us. The infrequent use of the sherry meant that the bottles built up over the years until there was quite a stock.
They lasted for years after my father retired; but the turkey we then had to buy each Christmas never tasted the same as Cuthbert. g*
Our favourite food…
I love traditional Christmas pudding and last year, for the first time my wife and I made our own. All it lacked was the sixpences inside! It was delicious and we are doing it again this year.
Family and friends gather at our house on Christmas Eve, and my wife, Renilde, makes a continuous supply of Belgian waffles. She makes them one at a time with her mother’s old fashioned waffle iron and they are eaten with butter, cream and brown sugar. My job is to ferry them around and make sure no one has time to stop chewing.
At one Christmas party, Dad and my three uncles decided that they wanted sausage sandwiches. My aunt would not make them, so the brothers decided to go to our house as it was just up the road.
They were missing all night and in the morning we went to find them. We could not stop laughing. Uncle Fred was lying in our front garden with a blanket over him and a frying pan in his hand. Uncle Cyril was lying upside down half way down the stairs with a pound of sausages in his hand. Uncle Fred was on the loo with what was left of a block of lard in his hand. My dad, Stan, was fast asleep on the kitchen floor.
All of them were out cold due to too much drink and the front door was wide open. Needless to say they all had their ears bashed by their wives