Fam­ily mat­ters:

Pat McDer­mott has scoured her mum’s beloved old cook­books and de­vised her Christ­mas menu. Joy to the world? No, it seems Clan McDer­mott is on red alert.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS - To con­nect with Pat on Face­book, visit face­book.com/PatMcDer­mot­tau.

Pat McDer­mott’s Christ­mas dinner

In the weeks lead­ing up to Christ­mas, my mother was al­ways at the kitchen ta­ble sur­rounded by her cook­books. Fi­nal de­ci­sions had to be made about Christ­mas dinner. Of course, there would be ham and tur­key, but what my mother loved most was mak­ing Christ­mas cakes, sweet bis­cuits and her fa­mous Christ­mas choco­lates – del­i­cate, shiny mini pud­dings with spun su­gar holly leaves on top. They sat in rows on a gi­ant tray on the back veran­dah to cool and set. Eat one and the theft was ob­vi­ous. Eat a whole row and it wasn’t so ob­vi­ous.

On Christ­mas Day, my mother opened the china cab­i­net and brought out the good dishes. The cab­i­net had found a way to be large and squat at the same time. It was crammed with knick-knacks, glass­ware and plates. Only two curved glass walls saved it from be­ing to­tally ugly. Even­tu­ally, it talked its way onto a boat and came to live with me in Aus­tralia, where, against the odds, it sur­vived for an­other 30 years, de­spite kids, dogs and foot­balls.

One Satur­day morn­ing a few weeks ago, the china cab­i­net and the McDer­motts fi­nally parted com­pany. The MOTH (Man of the House) and I stood solemnly to at­ten­tion as two blokes car­ried it gen­tly down the steps and around the corner of our apart­ment block. This was fol­lowed by the sound of break­ing glass and splin­ter­ing tim­ber. Some­thing big had been heaved into the back of a truck. The MOTH raced to the kitchen and came back with a bot­tle of Cham­pagne and two glasses. “It had to go,” he said. “I know,” I replied. It’s been a year of change for us, of com­ings and go­ings, and sud­denly it’s al­most Christ­mas.

We raised our glasses in a toast. “Here’s to never hav­ing a year like this again!” Then I went down to the stor­age cage to dig out my mother’s cook­books. I had to put on a proper Christ­mas feast like she did, with hot things hot and cold things cold, and ev­ery­thing ready at the same time. Surely I can do it, too.

An ar­chae­ol­o­gist would love th­ese cook­books. It would be like dis­cov­er­ing Tu­tankhamen’s tomb. The an­cient crumbs caught in the bind­ing, the baf­fling recipes for “Com­pany Chicken Spaghetti”, “Poor Man’s Cheese­cake” and the mys­te­ri­ous “Egg-less, But­ter-less, Milk-less Cake”. The pages are dog-eared and well thumbed. Mum’s mar­gin notes in el­e­gant cur­sive are fad­ing fast. “Yvette’s favourite”, “If no brandy, use sherry”, “Chil­dren won’t like this”, “Dry and too crumbly – Blackie liked it!”. Blackie was our corgi, a grumpy “garbage can on legs” kind of dog, al­ways wait­ing un­der the ta­ble for treats to come his way.

I should ex­plain. I’m not the worst cook in the world, but I’m not an in­spired cook ei­ther. I may just be a lit­tle “over-cooked”. I cal­cu­lated that by the time Ruff Red, our youngest child, turned 18, I’d made 35,000 in­di­vid­ual break­fasts, lunches and din­ners. No one seemed dis­turbed by my lack of en­thu­si­asm or skill. They showed up, re­lent­lessly, day af­ter day.

This week, I sent an email to the fam­ily about the menu for Christ­mas Day. “Fore­warned is fore­armed,” the MOTH said, mildly.

Dear all: This year I am fol­low­ing AWW Christ­mas cook­ing in­struc­tions to the let­ter. Ev­ery­thing will be fine. Not go­ing to baste ham with or­ange juice. Go­ing to put or­ange juice in the vodka. Xx Mum

I was still get­ting replies from the five of them at 3am. Doesn’t any­one sleep any more?

“Mum – just do spaghetti bolog­naise! We’re used to it. The vodka will make it spe­cial.”

“Agree – spag bol is fes­tive in its own way.” “Know your lim­its, Mum! Re­mem­ber last year. Don’t do the flam­ing pud­ding thing.”

“Dear Mum, I think it’s good to be in your com­fort zone at Christ­mas time. Do you have a com­fort zone food-wise?”

“Hey Mum – Merry al­most Christ­mas. Make tur­key for sure and do a Pavlova. Gotta have a Pav! Send pix! Es­pe­cially if some­thing catches fire. That would be cool!”

At least one of the kids has faith in me, but why is it only the one who can’t be here?

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