Twelve Christmas stories: 1. mincemeat, Christmas pudding, Christmas cake… now which bowl of mixture was which?

It was some time in November, and the four of us, mum, dad and two children probably aged about five and six, had come down to Uphill, near Weston-super-Mare from Oldham for the weekend. Since my Dad had died when the children were babies we had kept on his bungalow and visited every other weekend to have my sister home with us from her care home. I guess it would be much more difficult now as the motorways are so very busy all the time, but twenty odd years ago we were able to leave mid-afternoon on the Friday as we were teachers.

This particular weekend, end of October, November, I don’t really remember the exact date, I was going to start thinking ahead for Christmas and make mincemeat, Christmas puddings, and a cake… I’d decided to do it in our little bungalow in Uphill so everyone including my sister could join in and make a wish as they stirred the mixture.

I had all the fruit marinating in a mixture of different things, brandy for the cake, rum for the pudding, something else for the mincemeat, and everyone had a jolly good stir and made wishes. The kitchen smelt wonderful and we were all very excited at the thought of the celebrations to come in December. We would have Christmas in the bungalow, along with my sister home for the holiday, grandma (my mother-in-law) my aunty and uncle from Cambridge, friends from Uphill with one or both of their adult sons… a big happy party! But that would be in the middle of winter, mincemeat/pudding/cake making was in November.

After lunch on Sunday we packed everything into the car as usual, including the mixtures securely wrapped in cling-film and wedged among the luggage, and took my sister back to her care home before we pointed ourselves north and set off back to Oldham.

We arrived with two tired and sleepy children, unpacked them, got them into bed, unloaded the car, tidies up, sorted out, unpacked… and then it was probably our bedtime!

… so it was probably a couple of days when I returned to the mixtures… I’d made equal quantities one big cake, several puddings, lots of jars of mincemeat. The pudding mix was in the mixing bowl , the cake mix was in the big basin, the mincemeat was in the tub… but wait a minute… wasn’t the pudding mix in the big basin and the cake mix in the tub? Or was the pudding mix in the tub? Which was which, all the fruit had become a similar colour and I couldn’t now remember whether the rum was in the pudding or the mincemeat, and was the whisky in the cake or the pudding? I’d put nuts in the pudding! But also in the cake… and hadn’t I put the left over nuts in the mincemeat?

In the end I just went with whatever seemed most likely and made cake, pudding, mincemeat… I think I got the cake mix right, but may have muddled the pudding and mincemeat mixtures… whatever, it all tasted wonderful, and in the company of dear family and good friends, no-one really cared, all enjoyed, and we had a marvellous Christmas together!


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