Two heads were bent close together: an unruly auburn mop and a smooth chocolate swirl. Spread across the table were opened cookery books.
“Look at this – this looks absolutely yummy…”
“Hmm, yes, but this is a sure-fire recipe – never known it to fail.”
“I think we should try something different this year…”
“Yeah, okay, but Christmas is supposed to be traditional…”
“Sure, but whose tradition?”
Sister-snatches of conversation while recipes were picked out, perused, set aside or discarded. It was October, time to bake the Christmas cake, time to plan the Yuletide fare.
“Right, then, we’ll use your never fail recipe for the cake – only lets add some nuts. When shall we shop? This afternoon? We’d better make a list.”
“No, we’ll photocopy the recipe and take it with us.”
“Might as well shop for the pudding and fruit mince as well.”
“Yes. Have you got those recipes?”
The chocolate swirl moved around the table, lifting books off books, shuffling the recipes around.
“Here’s a pudding.” She passed the book across the table.
The auburn mop shook. “No. You want the one with the grated carrot in the mix. I think the fruit mince is in the same book. It should be an old one, hardcover…”
The recipes were copied, the shopping was done. During the following week the cakes were baked, the puddings steamed and the fruit mince packed into jars. Steeped in the aroma of the fruit and the ambience of a task complete, the girls leaned back in easy chairs, tired feet resting on the coffee table, sipping steaming cups of lemon tea. After several years of separation the sisters worked together easily, each enjoying the others company.
Setting aside her empty cup and stretching luxuriously, the chocolate swirl asked, “When do we ice?”
“Week after next, I think.”
“Which shops stock marzipan?”
The auburn mop straightened in shock. “Marzipan? Bought marzipan? We don’t buy marzipan.” She took a deep breath and enunciated slowly and clearly, “We – make – almond – icing.”
The chocolate swirl hugged herself and chuckled. “Gotchya, didn’t I? And we make the fudge and the Turkish delight, and the cookies, and the punch, and – and – and…”
Her sister looked at her with disfavor. “You don’t have to make anything if it’s too much trouble. I will.”
“Ah, come on, sis. Lighten up a bit. We’ll make them together and have fun doing it.” She leaned over and ruffled her sister’s already unruly mop. “You don’t get to lick all the bowls clean, greedy thing!”
November drew to a close. The cakes were iced, the candies made. Once more the books were opened, the heads bent over them together.
“How many people?”
“Twelve or fourteen, I think.”
“Your table won’t seat that many.”
“No. We’ll get a trestle and some folding chairs.”
“What do we serve? Traditional fare?”
“Not altogether. My oven wouldn’t cope. We’ll do some hot, some cold. That way people have more choices and I don’t have to worry about who likes what.”
“Brilliant idea. Do you remember the Christmas with Auntie Alice when she decided we would send the money we usually spent on Christmas food to the orphans in some forgotten corner of the world, and we feasted on sandwiches and cordial?”
“Oh, yes! And the Christmas when Uncle Cecil…”
Busy fingers made lists while the memories ebbed and flowed. Turkey, fish, sliced meats, a leg of pork. Potatoes, pumpkin, parsnips, and a long list of salad stuff. Setting aside the chosen recipes, they packed the books back on the shelf, and fastened the lists to the refrigerator door with magnets.
“We’ll do the big shop and make the cookies next week. Then we’ll do the final shop a few days before Christmas. Only three weeks now and it will all be over.”
“And we’ll be considering new diets for the New Year. Why do we eat so much at Christmas? I am quite sure all this could not have been further from Mary’s mind as she rode into Bethlehem. We really do make gods of our bellies, don’t we, sis?”
“But we all like figgy pudding,
Oh, we all like figgy pudding,
Yes, we all like figgy pudding,
So bring some out here!”
They sang the old song, linking arms in an impromptu pirouette. The chocolate swirl bowed, the auburn mop curtsied, quoting in unison, “And we won’t go until we get some!”
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