From a different time

An Anglo-Indian Christmas is a whole season of preparation and celebration, which begins long before the actual day and goes on till the Feast of the Epiphany in January. Food and drink are central to the celebration, and a true-blue Anglo-Indian mum has her schedule worked out well in advance.

Aromatic grape and ginger wine  ready and bottled weeks in advance, plum cake redolent with rum ready to go into the oven by the first week of December…then the coaxing and threatening of the husband and children with dire consequences unless and until everyone pitches in with the laborious task of preparing the traditional sweets, kulkuls, rose cookies, coconut and cashewnut toffee, guava cheese,  dol-dol (which tastes infinitely better than it looks and calls for consummate skill in preparation, otherwise turning out to be a big inedible lump of black goop), chocolate fudge, cheese straws...the list is endless.

The feasting on Christmas Day begins immediately after Midnight Mass, with a glass of ruby red, home-made wine and slices of cake. Breakfast is usually a hefty spread of delectable pork sausages, slices of crisply fried bacon or ham and eggs done to perfection, with baked beans on toast on the side, after which the mad whirl of wishing and greeting of family and neighbours begins.

Christmas gifts are exchanged either before or after lunch, which is another hefty undertaking, the dining table groaning under the weight of traditional delicacies like pulao with chicken curry, or pork vindaloo or bafat, and the well-known Anglo-Indian special of coconut rice, devilled chutney and kofta curry.

Readers are no doubt smiling at my delicate use of a euphemism for the last named!  

Some families make a green masala  pulao  teamed with a distinctive coconut and onion salad. Cold cuts, roasts and salads also make delicious additions to the main courses, with caramel custard, blancmange, ice cream or more of the home-made sweets and cake for dessert.

A typical Christmas dinner is a comparatively lighter affair, with pork or veal or mutton crumbed chops, roast chicken, duck or turkey with stuffing, and mashed potato, with dinner rolls or bread, and boiled veggies or salad on the side.

It’s a good thing that dancing is also a big part of our Christmas celebration, giving us a chance to knock off the extra inches that the season’s feasting adds to our girths!

(The writer is the author of A Hint of Jacaranda, a book on life in old Bangalore, in which she has written about Anglo-Indian community life and celebrations.)

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