With Christmas around the corner, the mind inevitably turns to food. And not just any food but rich food. The kind that sits heavily in your stomach and fills your soul so that you feel truly blessed. The sight of tinsel mixed with the aroma of roast and baking is enough to send one off into another dimension. Cake with fruits soaked in rum or brandy, homemade wine, chicken in its skin crackling with butter (we know it’s mostly turkey elsewhere, but Bangalore until recently has been a chicken kind of place), rose cookies, khal khals, pies, brownies and everything else which comes with Christmas in Bangalore.
LL: Of course there has to be a tree with cotton wool acting as snow; Christmas is always a winter festival in our minds. Which makes me wonder what it is like in Australia and whether the Australians hanker for cool weather at this time.
PS: And all those Anglo Indians who migrated there en masse from Bangalore.
LL: They are probably continuing to add fake snow to their trees in the middle of summer and eating heavy food instead of salad.
PS: Well, perhaps because of their exodus from here, the nature of the festival in Bangalore has changed so much.
LL: It’s not just the Anglo Indians, even the Goan and Manglorean Christians are no longer as visible as they were twenty years back. Christmas in Bangalore is now more of an expat festival. Other than in the malls, Hotels and some shops, it is barely perceptible in the rest of the city. Just a few lights and the occasional carol to be heard.
PS: Maybe it is still very evident in certain parts of the city but we are only talking about the general perception. Fortunately Nilgiri’s still have their annual cake show. But the weather is no longer wintry either. In fact it feels decidedly like summer this year.
LL: Old age grumpiness won’t get us anywhere. Let’s think of the Christmas books to get into the spirit.
PS: Of course, books always maketh the season. You can’t talk about books at Christmas without mentioning ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens; a ghost story for Christmas. Then there is Christmasy murder with Agatha Christie’s ‘Hercule Poirot’s Christmas’. But I primarily like the books where they mention Christmas food.
LL: Peter Mayle’s ‘A Year in Provence’ tops that list. He so beautifully describes the party that he has in his newly renovated home and all the fab food.
PS: I chiefly remember the foie gras.
LL: Same here!
PS: There is the Christmas that finally comes to Narnia in ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’ with Father Christmas coming along and giving gifts to the Beavers and three of the Pevensie children (Edmund having gone off to eat Turkish Delight in the White Witch’s castle). The best part of the gift was the “large tray with cups and saucers, bowl of lump sugar, a jug of cream and a great big tea pot all sizzling and piping hot.”
LL: I know, one could just imagine the children, cold and shivery from the snow, getting that tray and having hot tea with the ham and bread sandwiches made by Mrs. Beaver.
PS: Funnily enough Donna Leon who writes so scrumptiously about food normally, in her one book set around Christmas time (Blood From a Stone), decided not to mention Christmas meals.
LL: The book just has Brunetti doing his Christmas shopping and then Leon skips Christmas altogether with a mention of the excesses that everyone was recovering from. I like the bit though where Brunetti buys a Cashmere sweater for his teenage son in the hope of later exchanging it for his own older sweater which his son kept borrowing.
PS; Then there are those quintessential, self sacrificing stories like the one by O’Henry, ‘The Gift of the Magi’,which is great as stories go but you don’t necessarily get a feeling of well being which is prerequisite for Christmas
LL: Although ‘Little Women’ is one of the best loved books and has a Christmas chapter, it is all about being good which makes the reader end up feeling inadequate. I often wondered whether Jo cutting her hair off was inspired by O’ Henry’s story but then I realised that Little Women had been written much before ‘The Gift of the Magi’.
PS: And of course, if anyone wants a completely different take on Christmas, though slightly dark, there is the one and only Terry Prachett’s ‘Hogfather’ which is not to be missed, in my opinion.