Monday 12 December 2011

Advent 2011: Doors 10, 11 & 12

Oopsie.  This is the second weekend in a row I've forgotten that Advent includes Saturdays and Sundays!  I'll try to remember next weekend.

By way of apology, here are three festive stories and a hint.

#1 Thanksgiving
... I preside over a whirlwind group effort to make a Thanksgiving stuffing, as best as I can remember the recipe, made from the crumbs of some high-end Italian bread, with necessary cultural substitutions (dates instead of apricots; fennel instead of celery.)  Somehow it comes out great.  Luca had been worried about how the conversation would proceed tonight, given that half the guests can't speak English and the other half can't speak Italian (and only Sofie can speak Swedish), but it seems to be one of those miracle evenings where everyone can understand each other perfectly, or at least your neighbour can help translate when the odd word gets lost. (Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love)

#2 Christmas
It was the last week in December, and Dr. Macdonough together with Lieutenant Douglas, the only other white resident at Isiolo, pooled with us on Christmas Day, and on our community table there appeared an amazing assortment of tinned delicacies, some that had been sent only recently from England to this forsaken outpost and treasured for association as well as contents.  In addition to game we had fine, juicy steer steaks, we introduced our British friends to hominy grits - and the royal feast wound up with English plum pudding ablaze with brandy. (Osa Johnson, I Married Adventure)

#3 St Stephen's Day
The day after Christmas (which, true to my Irish roots, I refuse to call Boxing Day – it’s St Stephen’s Day, that is all) Robbie and I set off on our road trip to the Eastern Highlands. We were headed for Nyanga, just over three hours from Harare, going east towards Mozambique. We were equipped with banana bread, mince pies, Christmas cake, wine, beer, baked beans, coffee, eggs, lots of water and a few other bits and pieces ... The landscape was very Swallows and Amazons, in a surreally African way. We were in a cottage called Mpunguzungu (say that 10 times fast), overlooking a beautiful waterfall.
The first night we were in Nyanga, we went for dinner with some friends of Robbie’s, the Calders. To get there we drove along a very bumpy track, me balancing a plate of melba toast and paté on my knee. I managed to hang on to all but one tiny piece of toast and subsequently decided it should be a new Olympic Sport – one in which I would excel. The Calders were lovely (incidentally, my only New Year’s Resolution is to find a good alternative to ‘lovely’ – please help) and we had a great time. We went to bed by candlelight because Mpunguzungu has no electricity. (We had a dishwasher though - his name was George. This is what I call the Zimbabwean paradox.)  The next morning, we had breakfast outside: coffee made in AJ’s thermos, toast with honeycomb, fried eggs. We were joined by some cows with bells – this made it a strangely Alpine interlude. (Hints to Lady Travellers, December 2009)
Oh, you'd like a hint?  After careful consideration, I can offer this: the likelihood of travel disrupting your favourite festive traditions is great.  The ingredients, the facilities, the climate will conspire to change things.  But this isn't a bad thing.  However much you're convinced that it is the details that make the holiday, if you're lucky you'll discover that the spirit of the holiday is bigger than any one detail.  

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