When I was a kid, every year we would go to my grandmothers in Toronto for Christmas.(my dads mother) My grandmother had the kind of money that we did not so there was a certain level of special about going to grandma’s house… I mean beyond the difference in lifestyles one had to be on their best behavior, use all their manners and not blow their nose on the linen napkins etc lol. I never learned easily and was just as stubborn as my father so I spent a huge amount of those holidays standing over the ironing board in the basement ironing Irish linen.
In retrospect, I think going to my grandmothers house is what caused the beginnings of my addiction to food… and if it didn’t cause it I’m pretty sure it had a huge impact on it.
Christmas time at grandmas had all of the special things that you would read about in books or see on TV; sliced brown bread, (and those days everyone was a Wonder Bread child)real butter, real orange juice etc. etc. Pop/soda in every flavour under the sun. There were nuts in the shell by the pound, tangerines in our stockings and snack to be eaten by the fire.
There were crumpets for breakfast and tea with milk and even real raspberry jam.…there were actual roasts of beef, sliced sandwich meat besides a balogna chub, real mayonnaise, and every kind of fruit and vegetable known to mankind…most of which I’d never tried. Actually I never had thought of let them let alone tasted. And if there was something missing my grandmother would just send someone up the street to Mr. Young’s grocer to pick up what was needed on account.
It also contained a level of sweets that I don’t miss at all… there was Christmas candy that was a whole different ball of wax when I was a kid…There were two different kinds of pastilles, candy ribbons, real gumdrops dipped in sugar and mixed candies that had Santa’s face in them…(or what I assumed was Santa’s his face)…Roman nougat, real mince tarts, figgy pudding with the whole tradition of hard sauce and flame. There was Christmas cake with without nuts and there was a whole room in the basement that just held cases and cases of booze…
I’ve tried for years to find either of the different kind of pastilles that we had available….one was from Laura Secord and the other was almost like a petit fours without cake inside… it was like the petit fours icing all the way through.
Funny what you remember around the holidays…I adored being at my grandmothers house for the holidays because her traditions were so different than ours…Never did a Jell-O salad end up on my grandma’s table and we never had vegetables like asparagus, or broccoli or mushrooms, nor lox and cream cheese
It wasn’t so much the food or even the amount of people that frequented my grandmothers house…she never said no to a stranger… And my dad was from a large family so a regular Sunday style dinner could be for 10 or 45! Saturday’s tradition was burgers… with a myriad of toppings that I’d never seen before.
Quite often there would be one of my dad’s sisters and spouse and children staying over as well as us and more often than not they were the more affluent relatives than we were. I was a long way into my life before I came to understand that my cousins opening gifts I had only seen on the tv didnt mean but they were better than I, that their family was somehow better than ours….only that they made up for a divorce or the loss of a child by buying only the best.
The only time I ever knew as a child that we were poor was at grandmas house. She worked hard to make us all feel equal but we knew. ..it instilled within us a healthy respect for money and tradition that I live with till this day.
And memories of glass bowls of Christmas candies strewn about the house.