The festive season is at last upon us. I'd almost decided to give up on the day as the children were behaving like horrible spoiled brats, fighting and generally trashing the house. If it hadn't been for the fact that i'd already paid for the tickets (and the inclusion of supper meant that there was one meal i didn't need to think about), I think i would have been tempted to stay home, put forward the clocks and move towards an early tea and bedtime. So i set off with grim determination towards the surrounding darkness of the vast parkland surrounding Chatsworth.
But here the magic started. With every car heading the other way, every light bulb taking us towards the stables, the little pink and spotted bodies of two-day old piglets suckling. And then on to the dressing room for the donning of costumes, of angels with wings of real goose feathers, sitting on hay bales tucking into a fine Cornish pasty from the renowned farm shop. And as the story unfolded, replete with real donkey and sheep, my heart melted just a little and the disaster of a day was gone to replaced by something immortalized and eternal.
I was tucking into my third Chatsworth mince pie in the interest of research you understand. I made my own mince pies weeks ago with mincemeat left to mature from last year. I was pleased with the taste although they do seem to weep a sticky goo - which i quite like - but doesn't give the kind of shop-bought finish the Chatsworth ones enjoyed. I think on balance it's a question of soul - the neatly-formed, precise, sugar-dusted pies seem to lack that touch of love, the uneven rolling of pastry, the lopsided star pressed on by finger dents. A bit like my angel with her lopsided halo and the sheep trying to tuck into whatever was surrounding baby Jesus. The smallest king refused to hand over the gold and mary appeared to have been drinking given her red nose and cheeks - or it could just have been over-zelous use of face paints.
You cook some Spanish-style re-fried rice with left-overs from the fridge and echo my thoughts, saying, it is "utterly delicious (but) looks a bit of a mess". Food is like that, when left to its own devices, not fussed or garnished. My mince pies would never grace a farm shop or WI tea, but i would like to bet there won't be a single one left at the end of the festive season.
From one blinkered omnivore to another,