I took a step of faith and invited people for Christmas dinner. By Christmas Eve, with meal preparations well underway, I was doubting the wisdom of that.
I’ve hosted a Christmas feast many years, but lat year we went to a friend’s place for Christmas dinner. While we have had many people over for a meal here, this was the first time I have tried to do something big and Canadian.
Germans eat goose at Christmas. Canadians are more likely to eat turkey. Finding a grocery store that had a turkey was a challenge, but I did it. Nothing in Sulzburg of course, nor Heitersheim. Didn’t find one in the grocery store I visited in Freiburg. In little Dottingen though, buried under a pile of frozen geese, was one that would fit my small oven. When I got home I realized I had another problem, which meant an extra trip out of townto buy a roasting pan.
Then came the cooking challenge. The turkey as wrapped in plastic, with directions. It seemed to me that the recommended cooking time was about 90 minutes too long, and the oven too hot. I figured a European turkey can’t be that different from a Canadian one, so went with what I know. The end result was delicious.
Then there was the matter of stuffing. Normally I buy a prepared stuffing that costs 99 cents at my local grocery store, then add some personal embellishments such as walnuts or apples. Here there is nothing remotely similar in the stores, or at least nothing I could see. So I made my own. It turned out surprisingly well.
I’d planned ahead. “Surprise cookies” were to be the dessert. You can’t buy the crucial ingredient here. But I had bought what I needed before leaving Canada and stuffed them into my suitcase. The same for the carrot and pineapple jellied salad – I brought the orange gelatin from home; haven’t seen anything similar here. I needed canned crushed pineapple, which doesn’t seem to be available here, but it was simple enough to run pineapple chunks through my hand blender. It worked out well, and for me was the highlight of the meal – a childhood comfort food I haven’t had for more than a year.
Cranberries are a North American food that I don’t eat, so their absence wasn’t a big deal for me, but my wife likes them. She suggested johannes berries (red currants) as a substitute. They smelled horrible to me as I cooked them, but people seemed to like the results.
A big realization was the challenge of serving. I have a kitchen full of dishes in Ottawa.We have heirloom serving plates and things that we were given as wedding presents that only get used occasionally. Everything I need for a big meal. In Germany, starting from scratch, we are living more simply. When stocking our apartment we bought everything we need, but not “luxury” items. How often do you need a gravy boat? Yesterday was the first time.
In the end though, everything turned out well. I thought the broccoli was overcooked, but no-one complained.
I think though there would have been no complaints if all I had served was peanut butter sandwiches. We were gathered for the fellowship as much as, or even more than the food. We were celebrating the birth of the Messiah, of the impending end of the kingdom of evil. Good food was a nice touch, but good people is all we really needed and we had that.
I hope you too had a good Christmas.