Thursday, January 10, 2008

'Good carrots ruined!'

Maude’s father, Crawford, has a very fixed idea of Christmas. The details of his Christmas should not be tampered with – as any deviation from his template has the potential to spoil his entire experience.

It was Christmas a decade ago when Maude’s sister, Lucia, last ‘tampered’ with Christmas. Lucia is a gifted chef and took responsibility for the Christmas lunch dessert – deciding that a departure from the traditional steamed pudding was long overdue. It was to be a surprise for Crawford and a surprise it certainly was. The lights were dimmed and Lucia brought the chestnut mousse into the dining room with some ceremony and not a little pride in her efforts. The rest of the company smiled its approval and a gentle ripple of applause greeted Lucia as she processed to the centre of the table. Crawford was conspicuously quiet until he was served. His assessment of Lucia’s efforts was a little harsh and was issued at the top of his voice:

‘That’s a piss poor excuse for a pudding if ever I saw one!’

Lucia burst into tears, Augusta cast a withering look at her husband and left the room. I turned to gauge the reaction of Maude’s twin brother, Roddy, only to hear the sound of his ignition in the yard. Maude put an arm around Lucia’s shoulder and led her, sobbing, from the room. Maude paused briefly at the door until she was sure that the scene was imprinted on her father’s memory and then comforted her sister back to the quiet sanctuary of the music room.

That memory had seemingly receded this year. Augusta had allotted Christmas Day tasks by handwritten memo. I was asked to look after the baby and make sure that the log fire didn’t fade, while Maude took responsibility for the preparation of the vegetables. As I was carrying Aurora from the kitchen, I noticed Maude ransacking her mother’s larder after some culinary inspiration.

‘Brilliant! Fresh ginger for the carrots.’

I had a sudden flashback to the mousse incident and tried to attract Maude’s attention while she was ushering me out the kitchen.

‘But darling, don’t’ forget about (at this point Maude closed the door soundly behind me) ….the mousse.’

Christmas lunch was not very old when Crawford and I found ourselves alone at the table – as we had ten years earlier.

‘What did I say?’ Crawford straightened his paper party hat and pushed his carrots to the edge of his plate. As he tucked into the remainder of his turkey he looked across at my turkey leg.

‘Do you not want that? There’s a wild load of meat left on it.’

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