However hard I try, at some point Christmas always gets the better of me. I’ve been trundling along with my shopping this year, not feeling smug - always a trap - not feeling panic.
Fact: I wanted to make a Christmas pudding. Fact: my pudding bears a Tesco sticker.
Fact: I wanted to make my own mincemeat. Fact: I had to call Mr Tesco for that too. Although actually I think I may still have time to make some; I’ve found that you can compensate for making mincemeat late with the simple addition of a litre of brandy.
Still, all in all, it was going well, and whilst incredulous that there are now only about 10 days left before the big day, I thought I had my head above water.
Then, just ahead of Cyber Monday came Suicidal Saturday.
‘I’ll just,’ I said, ‘nip to the supermarket to get a few bits, and then I’ll pick up the tree. It won’t take long’. I hadn’t banked on the list-making machine in my head. When it heard I was going near a shop, its lights suddenly glowed green and it started to spew orders into my head.
‘Get gifts for the music teachers’,
‘Buy present for Mrs Langlois’,
‘Buy stocking fillers for the dog’ (haven’t told you about the dog have I?),
then a question to mix it up a little,
‘Have you got enough brandy to feed the cake?’.
As my face assumed the Christmas look; furrowed brow, stress acne, pained grimace and frenzied whispering under my breath, the voice of doom joined the cacophony in my head,
‘You do realise this is the last weekend you have to do X, Y and Z don’t you? You have to get it all done this weekend, or - sadistic pause - it will be too late”.The list machine had one parting go before I reached the checkout,
‘Make sure you have enough toilet cleaner’.
I somehow survived the supermarket intact, then headed to the garden centre to buy the tree.
Now I hadn’t committed the novice error of dragging children along with me to make tree-buying a fun and festive activity. If you have ever tried that you know what I mean; tension, squabbling, ‘I need a wee’, freezing little fingers, misery.
Don’t do it.
Being child-free, I thought I’d be fine.
Apparently the xmas calendar had deemed that this was tree-buying Saturday for all French citizens who live north of the Rhône. Getting a parking space took about 15 minutes, and then I shuffled forward with the masses. I was duly sucked in to the noisy, sparkling, stressful winter land of wonder. It was a violent assault on the senses. There were small children writhing and screaming in the clutches of their parents. The music was too loud. There were too many people. The list machine in my head froze; all conscious thought suspended.
Caught in the festive crossfire, I did well to make it outside to where they sell the trees. We are ever so green and buy a ‘proper’ tree for Christmas - natch - which we plant in the garden afterwards. In fact it’s not a Christmas tree at all, just something pine-like, a third cousin of the Nordmans, twice removed. Going outside to the ‘real’ trees did reduce my stress a bit because I was alone in the gloaming, albeit peering at horribly expensive specimens and wondering whether to sack my conscience and go buy a rootless thing that’ll be dead in a few weeks. Eco-warrior prevailed and I loaded up my trolley and headed for the checkout.
Standing in the queue confirmed my suspicion that Christmas should probably be cancelled. Careworn faces waiting to be served, toes curling in dread at what the till display would read. Tired brains totting up how much Christmas has already cost, and that’s without buying the food and drink. Worrying, worrying, will it all get done? Should I have bought that present? Will I still have a job in the new year?
I wanted to leave my trolley and run. Run into some parallel universe where Christmas consists of wooden handmade gifts, simple red and green decorations. Where there is snow, peace and quiet, no obligations, no tension, and healing cups of jasmine tea.
Of course I didn’t run. My children would be distraught without a tree to decorate, and the dog would be crushed if she didn’t get a stocking. I steeled myself, struggled back to my car and told myself it was all worth it.
Do you know what else I did? I went home and made rice pudding. A big bowl of filling, creamy stodge, topped off with a dollop of jam. I hunched over my bowl and savoured the mouthfuls.
Well your first name doesn't have to be Sigmund to work it out; in times of stress cook yourself soothing, childhood food. Maybe by doing that you’ll find yourself in a warm, safe place where grown ups are doing the worrying, someone else is washing up, and you can go to bed excited, because tomorrow is going to be a wonderful day full of presents and more lovely food.
If I keep eating the rice pudding, do you think that will happen for me sometime before December 25th? Well there’s certainly no harm in trying, is there?
Merry Christmas lovely readers!
Eat, drink - try to be merry - and here’s to 2009 with lots of allergy-friendly treats.
Festive Dairy Free Rice Pudding
(Serves 1 mildly depressed pre-Christmas adult, or about 4 festive ones)
Oh but this is simple! A joy to prepare in these hectic days of extra cooking duties. Rice milk is a bit of a tricky one, I find it doesn't always work so well with its distinctive taste, but in this recipe, it is in its element.
1 cup/225g risotto rice
1-3 tbsps dairy free spread
1 tsp ground cinammon
½ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg / a good grating of fresh nutmeg
sugar to taste, at least 3 tbsps
1-2 litres of rice milk
Blackcurrant jam to serve
- In a heavy-based saucepan with a lid - mine was not a non-stick one, I'd try not to use a non-stick one for fear of a flaking bottom - gently melt the dairy free spread, and when just liquid add the risotto rice. Stir to coat the rice
- Add the sugar and spices, and if you think you're lacking a bit in dairy free spread, throw in a bit more (it's Christmas after all)
- When the rice is gently sizzling, glug in about 200-300 ml of rice milk and stir. Cover the pan - make sure the heat is down low - and leave the rice and milk to do its thang for 5 minutes or so. The rice will gradually start to absorb the rice milk
- Stir the mix and glug in more rice milk, you will have to do this over and over until the rice is tender. Keeping the lid on the pan helps, it sort of steams the rice and hurries the process along. In addition it means you can bustle around doing other things instead of stirring endlessly
- So, keep putting in more rice milk, stirring, covering, bustling and repeating it all over again until the risotto rice is tender. It varies, but this will probably take about 20 minutes. Have you noticed the delicious creamy taste? Isn't that a marvel? So rare in a dairy free diet to get that good creamy coating on your tongue. Yum
- When the rice is tender, add more sugar if required, then ladle out a serving into a bowl, and top with jam if you desire
- Let the steam warm your face and gently spoon the pudding into your mouth
- Inhale. Exhale. It will all be ok.
© Pig in the Kitchen