A Good Home, Christmas Dinner

White-Out

Thank goodness for Christmas plates. 

They’re not all to my taste, but they seem to be the most colourful thing anyone uses at the dinner table these days. 

Blog Photo - China coloured patterned Christmas 2

It’s a white-out, I tell you. 

Even here in my own household, we tend to use plain white cups, saucers and plates, saving “the good stuff” for when the governor-general comes for dinner. But she still hasn’t visited, so you get the picture….

Whatever happened to dishes with patterns?

Blog Photo - Anne's dishes2

This gorgeous dish set – service for 8, along with completer items — was valued at nearly two thousand dollars (Canadian) in earlier years. Anne, an acquaintance of mine here in Ontario, is the owner and she is now downsizing.

For this beautiful Old Staffordshire Ningpo set, she is asking only $250. Will someone buy it? 

Blog Photo - Anne's dish set completer items 1

Many North Americans considered themselves lucky if they inherited such prestigious dishes or got them as a wedding gift; some spent years scrimping and saving to complete the set. 

Blog Photo - Anne's dish set cup and saucer

So when did we lose our taste for the patterned Royal Doultons, the Limoges, the Royal Graftons and Alberts, the Villeroy and Bochs? 

Blog Photo - China patterned white and blue 800 Vieux Luxembourg

The floral patterns, the pastel colours, the much-valued blue-and whites?

Blog Photo - china coloured patterned 1a

When did white plates become de rigueur? When did we become such boring young and old farts? 

One big problem now, it seems — as older generations downsize their homes — is that fewer people seem to want their treasures.

Blog Photo - China patterned vintage limoge for 8

Tastes have changed. Become bland. Not only do most young adults I know want only plain white dish sets, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything with a pattern on their wedding registries.

Mind you, I do wonder why the earlier generations were so stuck on patterned plates. Was it for the art? Or was it because the meals they cooked were so boring, they needed a bit of cheering up? Did they find the roast chicken and the over-boiled vegetables, simply too depressing?

~~

If you want to buck the tide, visit Facebook Marketplace, ebay, Etsy or other online sites. You will find an abundance of beautiful patterned china, many at great prices.  The pictures above came from Facebook Marketplace.

And if you’re interested in Anne’s gorgeous dinner set, contact me, please, and I’ll connect you with her.

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A Good Home, Cake Recipes, Christmas, Christmas Baking, Christmas Dinner, Christmas Pudding, Recipes

Nigella’s Christmas Pudding – Better Than My Sister’s?

In some homes, this is the time to steam the Christmas Pudding or bake the Christmas Cake. Not mine.

If you’ve read A Good Home, you know that I baked a fancy cake – once.  It caught fire and burned and I took that as a sign from above.  As for steaming a pudding — I’ve never tried.  Still, I know enough bakers to realize that it’s risky to declare your own Christmas Creation the best of them all.  

Clearly, no-one told Nigella Lawson that. The well-known food diva claims hers is “the Queen of Christmas Puddings”. It’s a wonder this claim hasn’t started a war.

Jamaican Christmas Cake - Photo by The Gleaner
Christmas Cake – Photo from The Gleaner

In Britain, the US, Canada, Jamaica, and  many other countries, there are  bakers who know their Christmas Cakes or Puddings are the best. But one doesn’t say it, you understand. One smiles smugly, knowing others will say it for you.

And the recipe?  Usually a closely guarded family secret.  But whether it’s a Pudding or a Cake, the first part of the process seems identical. Long before now – from a week to a year in advance – the bakers soak the dried fruit (prunes, currants, raisins, apricots, etc.) in alcohol.  Usually wine, rum or/and brandy.  Lots.

Photo of Nigella Lawson by Charles Birchmore, BBC
Photo of Nigella Lawson by Charles Birchmore, BBC

A few years ago,  Nigella soaked her fruit in a liqueur called Pedro Ximenez, or – as she describes it – “the magic liqueur… the sweet, dark, sticky sherry that has a hint of licorice, fig and treacle about it.

“I know there is no turning back,” she says.  “This is sensational… this here is the Queen of Christmas puddings. It has to be tried, and clamours to be savoured.”

Nigella's Christmas Pudding
Nigella’s Christmas Pudding

Now, as far as I’m concerned, the prize for the ultimate Christmas Cake or Pudding goes to either my sister or mother-in-law.  

Both their creations are outrageously delicious. Both are a spiritual experience.  And I mean that in the most alcoholic way.

You get your first whiff when the creations are lifted out of their containers for everyone to see.  The aroma fills the nostrils – indeed, fills the room.

Cake Tin - Google Images
 Google Images

And there it is: dark brown, pungent with fruit, spice, rum, brandy or port wine.  Not to be eaten before Christmas Day — though that takes tremendous willpower.

The thing is dangerously good.  If the alcohol doesn’t do you in, the weight-gain will. But the way I see it, the only thing more dangerous than eating too much of it on The Big Day is to tell the whole world that yours is ‘the ultimate’.

Jamaican Christmas Cake - Google Images
Jamaican Christmas Cake – Google Images

I asked my sister if she’d heard about Nigella’s claim. She ignored the question and spent  five minutes telling me how imperfect her own creations are this year (which means they’ll be absolutely delicious).

“But you’ll never believe it – the gluten-free ones turned out really well this year.”  (Which means they’ll be absolutely glorious.)

Then, finally, she circled back to Nigella’s pudding.

“Ahmm… what did she put in it?” She asked, trying to sound indifferent.

“Pedro Ximenez liqueur”, I replied.

“Oh”.  She was still cool, but I  sensed her interest. “And… how do you spell that second word?”

I spelled it.

“Does she add it after it’s done or before?”

“She soaks the fruit in it,” I said.

“Ahhhh… Hmmm… Maybe I’ll try it next year.”

My sister’s recipe, of course, is secret. But here’s Nigella’s:  http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/ultimate-christmas-pudding

My best wishes for perfect Christmas Cakes and Puddings!