An annual ritual for me for more than forty years is baking the very nutty, fruity Christmas cake from a recipe in the Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbook I was given at a kitchen party just before getting married in 1975. It’s called a Continental Christmas Cake. I have no idea why because continentals don’t bake Christmas cakes like this very British one.
I remember once, a decade ago, queuing in a line at a supermarket in Seattle to get a recently-purchased recipe book signed by the author, the Galloping Gourmet, Graham Kerr. A discussion began in the queue about the differences between British and US wedding cakes. Graham stated that American ones were light and fluffy whereas ours were dark and mysterious. So this Christmas cake is of the dark and mysterious kind.
Apart from all the dried fruits that are matched by such a wonderful array of nuts, one ingredient always makes me remember my paternal grandmother, Gladys Irene Moir, nee Acourt. Once a year at Christmas, Nana would treat herself to her favourite sweet, crystallised ginger.
I remember Nana as a shy lady who hid behind my smiley Pop and who didn’t seem to build a direct relationship with me, her first granddaughter. I wish I had known Nana as an adult, because, looking back, I think I am a bit like her. I prefer quiet activities and being alone in the quiet with my man but that doesn’t mean I love my grandchildren any the less. Nana Moir clearly loved me but she did nothing to pull me towards her and I didn’t spend enough of my childhood days seeking her out and appreciating her. She wasn’t jolly like my maternal Nana who was everybody’s favourite. In recent years I have often regretted that my child self didn’t spend more time with this shy and retiring soul.
So, Nana Moir, here’s to quiet and gentle memories of you as I chop crystallised ginger for this year’s dark and mysterious Christmas cake.