Christmas was not a big thing at the Christian school I attended on Dartmoor. Strict evangelicals, they presumably regarded Christmas with the suspicion that Puritans had shown it for centuries. They might reasonably have pointed to the fact that the early church had not celebrated Christmas and that the story was a conflation of different bits of the Bible. We never sang Christmas carols, nor did we hear tales of shepherds and wise men. The one song we did sing was “We wish you a merry Christmas” and at the conclusion of whatever play we performed at the end of term we were sent home with a Christmas pudding each, cooked by the staff of the school kitchen.
I remember coming home with my Christmas pudding at the Christmas holidays in 1974 and being take aback when it was set on the top shelf of a cupboard; Christmas puddings, it seemed, needed time to develop their best flavour and it would be kept for the following year. When you are fourteen years old, the idea that something might be kept for a year before being eaten seemed, at best, eccentric. At least a decade must have passed before the pudding was eaten at Christmas of 1975.
Christmas puddings can, respectably, be put away until the coming of the next Yuletide, other foodstuffs have a shorter shelf life. Making a mug of tea this evening, I opened the cupboard to search for something sweet to eat. Dundee cake and stollen remained. Mindful of having put on weight in the past month, the Dundee cake seemed the less calorific option. Stollen would have been preferable, but there is almost a sense of expanding as you eat it.
Chocolate and biscuits from Christmas still remain. Undoubtedly, the story is similar in countless other houses; leftover food is plentiful.
What is the purpose of the massive expenditure on food that we are still eating weeks later? How much of it goes past its “use by” date and ends up in the bin? Even at Christmas, how much cooked food went uneaten?
There is a collective madness about it all, a compulsive desire to spend huge amounts of money on food we will never eat seems to take hold of the country. How many bags of almonds and Brazil nuts are bought for no reason other than it is Christmas? How many people finish the nuts they have bought?
In retrospect, puddings that will last until next year seem sensible.