Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas and Couplehood

Christmas in Singapore.

Christmas Chocolate Cake. Mince Pies. Clove-Studded Orange Pomander
Outside: the constant patter of grey rain. Inside: the citrus and spice fragrance of clove-studded orange pomanders. Roast turkeys being carved. A large bit of ham. Carols sung slightly off key. Jolliness and glow. Old friends. Exchanging gifts. The sweet whisky-soaked dried fruit filling of hot mince pies.

Homemade Fruitcake
Fruitcakes from fav 2am Dessert Bar, homemade Christmas puddings soaked for months in brandy, Ghiradelli chocolates squares and Williams-Sonoma hot chocolate just off a plane from San Francisco.

Last Slice of Suzy's Chocolate Cake. Vanilla Bean Ice-Cream. Griottines.
Fudgey-centred chocolate cakes off Pierre Herme/Dorie Greenspan's Suzy's Cake recipe cuddling up to vanilla bean ice-cream and kirsch-soaked Griottines. Not much of a dessert fan, but surely there's a minute to spare for a play-around of temperatures, textures, tastes and mouthfeel. Plus this sort of thing seems to make people happy.

Cherry Cracky Mini-Cake
For some kids. Cracky Cherry Mini-Cakes were meant to be a variation on Dorie Greenspan's Dimply Plum Cake - swapping the plums for cherries and the orange for lemon zest. But their creator thought: meh, so boring. I'll substitute cake flour for baking powder and flour. And oh, for extra flavour layering, why not throw in a teaspoon of fleur de sel as well? The kids are probably tummy-aching to mommy now. Whingers.

Zesting organic lemons for Lemon Meringue Pie
Zesting off a bit of finger at the start of lemon meringue tart prep off another Pierre Herme/Dorie Greenspan recipe* which led later to too many bad joke variations on "oh, you almost gave us the finger?!".

Lemon Meringue Pie on Retro Dish
One of the lemon meringue tart siblings cooling it on a retro dish. Vanilla bean pâte sablée was nice and polite but not quite sandy and salty enough to bring out the creamy tartness of the lemon cream.

Mini cupcakes pretending to be strawberry ice-cream sundaes
Mini chocolate cupcakes dressed up for a party as strawberry sundaes.

Alright. Enough with all this gluttonous playing-around-with-food sentimentality. The aroma of the place of Jesus' birth bottled up would have been eau de la animal manure et la stinky afterbirth (pardon moi french). And is there really any way to pinpoint the accurate date of Jesus' birth in history?

But there is probably some truth in R C Sproul's warning, in Marley's Message To Scrooge, not to rain in on Jesus' parade with sniffy accusations of the commercialisation of Christmas, nor worry excessively about Santa the Pagan, but to celebrate it wholeheartedly. And why not grab the shiny opportunity, smiling and beckoning like a roasted chestnut, to tell people about the Christ of all?

The helpful folk at St Helen's Bishopsgate and UCCF have put together some videos:

That's Christmas! from andy pearce on Vimeo.
St Helen's Bishopsgate's That's Christmas

UCCF's The Christmas Tale - a focus on the King of Glory's intriguingly poor start in life but not much else.

Am enjoying Andy's advent calendar. A far better treat than those cheap chocolates behind bits of dreary cardboard.

The Canteen, Shaw Centre
According to colleagues, the suicide rate for single Japanese men is highest during the festive season, done in by the stark realisation of their lonely existence. In this season of coupley-lurve, it was heartening to share meals with those who love God more than the perceived loserness of singlehood and find themselves free to consider discontinuing relationships with partners who have no such priorities.

Klee, Wessex, Portsdown Road
But in the same week, hearts sank to know of professing Christians proposing to spend the rest of their lives in initimate relationship with enemies of God (Romans 5:10). There was a bit of a discussion with one party insistent that this sort of decision was merely unwise rather than a sin. But if sin is rebellion against God and refusing to acknowledge him as Lord and king, then is not such an action but an outward manifestation of the dangerously poor state of his soul vis a vis God? Does it not say that God is just a little tchotchke in my pocket that I take out to look at from time to time when I am not otherwise occupied in bed with people who hate him? (Judgement of any individual is God's alone of course but surely there is a need, an obligation even, to warn each other of the superficiality of worship that is sometimes more dangerous than expressed apostasy.)

So even if we think ourselves far above the commercialised circus that is the"yuletide festive season". Perhaps Christmas still isn't Christmas just because we arrange a carol service with no mention of reindeer or Santa, or give out cute evangelistic tracts (about shepherds washing their socks by night, and hark! the angel Harold singing) with our Christmas presents. Perhaps we only truly celebrate Christmas if Jesus is more than the vintage heritage of our childhood, or our latest hobbyhorse, or a handy psychological crutch; if we bow the knee (and the heart) to him as our saviour, lord, master, king, shepherd, God, all.

*yes, someone did just get Baking: From My Home to Yours 40% off at Borders

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At December 21, 2008 9:31 am , Anonymous cupboard store said...

griottines! oh how i miss them.

i'm only beginning to see the goodness of mince pies. mmm.

At December 22, 2008 10:04 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! These look delicious!

At December 23, 2008 12:00 am , Anonymous shadow said...

cs: i thought of you when i had them. :-) but surely you are in a better place. mine eyes hath seen the photos of ottolenghi!

anon: looks can be deceiving ah!


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