Traditions anchor us. They connect us to what was. If there is a holiday more steeped in tradition than Christmas I'd like to see it. There are the traditions that we seem to share in collectively around this time - whether its roaring fires, bad sweaters and eggnog (beaches, flip flops and BBQ's if you're in the southern hemisphere), decorating a tree, advent calendars, bulging stockings, santa sacks or leaving cookies out for Santa.
Then there are the traditions each family holds dear. What are yours?
For us it is settling Nanna June in front of BBC's Pride & Prejudice while I ice gingerbread in the background (and generally do a shitty job of it), breaking out the good cutlery, playing backgammon (always losing to Dad), cooking a turkey while complaining about how useless the oven is and the most salient tradition of all, stirring wishes into the christmas pudding batter. My great grandmother, Ruby, for whom I am named taught my Nanna how to make a pud and the necessity of making sure each Pudding or cake is infused with wishes from the baker. Then Nanna taught me.
This is our first Christmas with out our darling Grandmother, a notion that comes in heavy waves that make my heart ache with a pervasive sadness I can't quite seem to shake.
While the woman was a self confessed "abysmal cook" she made a mean pea and ham soup and a decent christmas cake. For you anti-fruitcakers (like my sister) you can just leave now. It is a dense loaf cake, heavy with fruit and sweetened with mango which I like to think gives it a nice summery flavour. I am not claiming this is the greatest christmas cake. But it was hers and now it is mine. I will bake it while Pride and Prejudice plays in the background and hope that missing her will hurt a little less.
June's Mango Fruit Cake
- 425 g canned mango in juice
- 500 g mixed dried fruit
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 1/2 cup self-raising flour
- 2 eggs lightly beaten
- Grease a 15 cm x 25 cm loaf pan and line base and sides with baking paper.
- Combine the undrained mango slices, mixed dried fruit and water in a large pan.
- Bring to boil and simmer, uncovered, for 1 minute. Allow to cool.
- Stir in eggs and combined sifted bicarbonate of soda and flour.
- Stir in your Christmas wish.
- Mix well and pour mixture into prepared pan.
- Cook in a moderately slow oven, about 160C for 1 hour or until cooked.
- Cool in pan, serve in slices with a cuppa
Recipe given to me by my beautiful grandmother, June Curan.