Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Boxing Day

December 26th

Since I had the 26th off, we decided to wait until this day to cook a big holiday dinner. Turkey was out, as you can only get it frozen and probably imported from Goodness knows where. And lamb's not exactly a special occasion meat when you live in New Zealand. So we went for a ham (manuka-smoked and on sale) scallop potatoes, green beans, and fruit salad (our one nod to the fact that it's Summer). Since Loren loves pumpkin pie, and I think its pretty nice too, I was determined to finally work out how to make one from scratch. A pumpkin pie from scratch is the only kind you can make in New Zealand. There's no such thing as canned pumpkin or frozen pie crusts. Fresh pumpkin can be procured year round, however, and cheaply. I used to agree with Garrison Keillor that the best pumpkin pie you've tasted is not that much better than the worst pumpkin pie you've tasted. I don't agree anymore. The pie was so tasty that I'm making another one today. And it was pretty simple to make too.

Mostly instigated by myself, we secured two Christmas items for the occasion that are traditional here (and in the UK) that are not popular in the States. The first was mincemeat pies, which turn out to be pretty tasty. They are basically little pies with apple, raisin, chopped nuts, and spices. What's not to like? We found them tasty but very sweet (except for Loren, who hates raisins).

Christmas Curiosity Number Two was Christmas Crackers. These look like a tube-shaped gift-wrapped package. You hold onto one end, get a friend to pull on the other end, it makes a tiny explosion, breaks apart, and some sort of toy/present comes flying out. You can buy these by the dozen in the grocery store, and they can contain anything from stickers to plastic toys to silly jewellery to those little things put on wine glasses so you don't get them mixed up at a party. We also got some nice ones from a chocolate and espresso shop that had 3 chocolates in each. Also they always contain a card with a joke on it, invariably a bad joke, usually a pun. Despite the painful jokes, these little things were so much fun, I feel I really missed out on something good as a child, and now have a lot of Christmas Cracker cracking to make up for!

We got a walk in that morning when the sun was out. Most stores were still closed up tight and the town was quiet. Boxing Day is a statutory holiday too. The rain was back by the time we started cooking. It was warm rain, but still, it made it feel a little more like the right time of year. In California rain always means Winter.

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