Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Redmond Christmas Market

DSC08312 (663x1024)While living distantly aroud greater London, I’ve made annual visits to the Southbank Christmas Market along the Thames. It started as a faint echo of the established collections of gift stalls, food, and music across Northern Europe.  It would be better, I thought, if they just embraced their own Victorian Christmas celebrations, widely mimicked in the US.

However, Southbank Winter Festival has matured into something special, while the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland is grown comfortable with its own sprawling kitsch.  I take each for what it is, a reflection of how people think about Christmas as well as how they celebrate it.

DSC08321 (1024x658)Redmond, WA, is not Maastricht nor London.  But its town market has the same mix of inward-looking tradition and backward-looking aspiration.   There is a grand carousel, covered with lights.  An ice rink filled with children, learning.  Yule tree, Sinterklaas-hut (minus the bishop’s hat and mitre), an orchestral choir (belonging to my next-door neighbour) singing classical European carols.

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DSC08274 (645x1024)The styles of celebration do mingle.  To see how much, I passed through The British Pantry, a grocer and restaurant catering to homesick British expats. It’s always an intriguing store, like someone walked through a Tesco scooping random bits of ordinary off the shelves.  Mustards and sauces, biscuits and pickles, chocolates and teas, all at everyday double-prices.  It’s a delight.  I treated myself to a pudding and a mince pie.

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DSC08282 (780x1024)And I spotted the best cross-cultural merge, lights blinking on his Bridget Jones Christmas Sweater.  A nice fellow, more than willing to stand in as the spirit of this foot-in-every-country season that I am traversing.

And to all, as happy a Christmas as he is enjoying!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Doing the holiday baking

DSC08393We always do a cookie exchange among the family at Christmas  time.  My grandmother’s typewritten cookie instructions and crowd the table with book recipes for rugelach, traditional bourbon balls alongside shortbreads introduced a year ago.  I have to lay in lots of ingredients that make nutritionists blanch: butter, whole milk, eggs, sugars (although food advice warning against these staples,  is changing).

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With jet lag and prep for diagnostic tests preventing any sleep, I’ve been up early each morning to mix, knead, refrigerate and roll.  A year of watching Masterchef and pushing myself into new styles and yielded a better sense of how to combine ingredients (and when to stop combining).  I got abundant high-quality goods this year.  Especially nice were some experiments with miniature loaves of ginger-, cranberry-, and pumpkin bread.

With the icing, it all comes together.

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I’m still not making the gtraditional UK Christmas Cake. ‘far better to leave that to my w.wezen, who knows.