Back in mid-December, I lost my Granny. Not as in "Where did we leave Granny" but rather as in "Gone Forever Granny". Just over two months on, and I'm still very much processing the fact that I'll never see her again.
Back in mid-December, I lost my Granny. Not as in “Where did we leave Granny” but rather as in “Gone Forever Granny”. Just over two months on, and I’m still very much processing the fact that I’ll never see her again.
I have a suitcase of things I brought back with me after the funeral that I still haven’t plucked up the courage to go through again, and the most random things bring long forgotten memories flooding back with a mixture of joy and sorrow. The one memory that keeps coming back to me time after time is from childhood and every Christmas Eve when I would be dropped off at her flat for the day while Mum and Dad went rushing off about the place getting the last of the presents bought and wrapped, and preparations made for the Christmas feast day ahead. I didn’t care, because I knew that I would be having the most amazing day with my Gran.
Now, it feels very strange to be writing about Christmas as we are facing into the arse end of February when I want nothing more for the dark days and nights to be over and the spring to well and truly show its face in public; but the fact is that I have not felt ready to write about this until now. And the reason is this: on Christmas Eve every year Gran and I didn’t go out anywhere; we didn’t mingle with the Christmas shoppers or go to carol services or visit Santa. No, what we did was stay in, have a very grown up meal and watch Christmas TV until it was time to go home. It was our special day together every year, same time, same place. In addition to this, I was utterly convinced that the red and white blinking lights over the hills of Dundry was actually Santa and his Reindeer coming to drop off the gifts for the children (I hoped I had been good enough this year!). In truth, they were the runway approaching lights for Bristol Airport, but I was a believer and nothing was going to change my mind! There were other rituals about the day too. For the one day of the year, Gran would hand over control of the Radio Times magazine (Christmas Edition, obvs) and give me the red marker pen to go through the days viewing and circle anything I wanted to watch – today was Katy’s day to choose what we would watch, and typically this would be reams and reams of Christmas movies, Christmas TV Specials and of course, The Snowman! And then there was the meal.
One thing above all else that you need to know about my Gran is that she was one classy lady! She was also the only pensioner I have ever known to be able to pull off wearing leopard print leggings, but that’s a story for another day… Gran liked the best things in life that she could afford, and for some reason, I don’t know why, but of all the times I went for lunch and dinner and Gran’s, the Christmas Eve lunch was always a grown up affair, complete with a bottle of chilled Reisling of which I was allowed to have the smallest of glasses. Probably viewed as highly irresponsible in these nanny-state days, but I am pleased to report that I have grown up with a very healthy attitude to alcohol consumption so keep any opinion to the contrary to yourself, please and thank you!
It was the same meal we had every single year. But it was the best meal ever, and to this day if someone put the following combination of food in front of me you will be making me very happy indeed:
Shrimp Cocktail to Start; Roast Chicken with Duchess Potatoes and all the trimming finished off with a Black Forest Gataeux. And the Reisling and the German ginger cookies for afters too! Shhhh!
As a terribly young child, I couldn’t even begin to understand how someone puts together such a glorious meal. As I got older I started to understand and now as an adult it makes me giggle because Gran, god bless her, was actually a packet queen! Christmas Eve dinner was more an assemblage of ingredients mixed together than a cooked from scratch meal. The shrimp came out of a tin; the marie rose sauce came out of a jar; the stuffing was Paxo (of course) and the gataeux was always shop bought and generally defrosted. But, the chicken was delicious and the Duchess Potatoes (no room for common-or-garden spuds here) were her speciality! It was the best dinner ever!
Since her passing, the memories of this special annual event have never been far from my mind. Growing up, as I reluctantly admit I have done, I have evolved into a bit of a handy cook (cue Blog – Ta Dahhh!); so I figured that the best honour I could do for her in my own special way is to take this iconic meal and “posh it up” a notch or two to create a dinner that she would have been proud of. It took me a while to get to it, but just this weekend gone, I did just that. I was more than pleased with the outcome and although in some parts my Gran wouldn’t recognise My Meal from Her Meal, I have every faith that she would have enjoyed every mouthful! So below is the menu and for each line is a weblink to the Recipe Blog page where you can read and download the recipes for yourself and recreate my Tea with Granny. Raise a glass to her while you do it – I recommend a glass of Alsace Cremant fizz – particularly this one that you can buy here!
All that is left for me to say is this: Gran, I miss you so much…E Viva Espana! xxx
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