Yesterday, we were discussing being honest about your Changed Circumstances this Christmas.
Thanks to Marjorie Hillis and her gorgeous little book, written in 1937, Orchids on your Budget, we now know that many folk far more wealthy than we mere mortals, were forced to deal with Changed Circumstances back in the day.
I mentioned one of her case histories, that noted that surviving lean times can strengthen your relationship and the family unit, if done in the right spirit.
I think one of the most important elements of this idea, is to find the right language to be generous and gracious in your own way, without having to live up to other peoples expectations.
You don't have to say 'we can't afford it this year'. You can say 'we have other priorities for Christmas 2015'. And no, you do NOT have to explain yourself beyond that.
One of my darling friends, going back years ago when we were both single parents of three sons, would just say 'we're poor this year, and lovin' it' with a full bellied laugh and a twinkle in her eye. Mind you, this is the same friend mentioned in yesterdays post, who still grows basil like a weed and conjures up the best pesto, like, EVER, at this time every year. If she ever gave me something other than her fab pesto for Christmas, I'd be most put out.
See, it's a tradition between her and I. Well her and about 50 of her closest friends actually. Her pesto is a thing of beauty. Freshly harvested basil, Italian Olive Oil, parmesan, toasted almonds (not pine nuts...too expensive....lol!), and garlic grown in her garden. Un-Believable.
Now you're in for a treat, because she's agreed to share her recipe here. I refuse to make it, because she's told me she's put a curse on it so her friends can't replicate it. I believe her ;-)
As you don't know her, and therefore at this stage cannot be numbered amongst her 'friends', I think you'll be fine. That's bound to change once you try her pesto though. This is the recipe as she recited it to me.
La-La's Un-Believable Pesto
Stuff as much fresh basil as you can into a food processor bowl. Add 3-4 peeled garlic cloves and a glug of olive oil (must be olive oil). Whizz. Add a handful of grated parmesan or pecorino cheese. Whizz. Add some more oil to get it the consistency you want. It should be like a thick dip, not slush. It should smell AH-maaaazing. Add a small handful of lightly toasted blanched almonds and pulse until they're ground. You can add lemon zest or chilli if you want to be non-traditional. Who cares. It's your pesto, right? Taste it and add salt and pepper if you want. Spoon into jars. Fin.
My note: Pesto, can be made from anything really. I've made a Semi Dried Tomato one by just replacing the Basil with the Tomato. Coriander (Cilantro) makes an incredible Thai inspired pesto to toss with rice noodles. Mint and lemon is amazing to serve with Turkish bread and home made Labna.
Lets assume, as we said yesterday, that you don't have basil or anything green for that matter, growing like a weed.
How about making a Caramel Sauce to serve with those Sundaes we talked about yesterday...
Mimi's Caramel Sauce
Mix equal parts of soft brown sugar and cream, and add a bit of vanilla essence. Heat and stir till well combined. Pour into your chosen vessels. Gift in enormous jars with lavish ribbons, or use as part of that Ice Cream Sundae buffet, that you're going to have after Christmas Carols by Candlelight, instead of buying gifts you can't afford for friends.
Again, it's about being generous in ways that don't bite into the budget.
Marjorie Hillis relates a Case of a young bride, Mrs V. Living in New York has always been costly and when Mrs V moves there with her new husband to Improve His Prospects, Mrs V wonders how to expand their social circle with little money. She has a silver tea service received as a wedding gift, and each morning lays it out, fills the sugar bowl, and sets out her best teacups. She conjures a small selection of delicacies that can be served as 'Tea' for callers, or as 'Supper' if no callers arrive. She makes delicate cookies, and serves Cinnamon Toast with such elegance that her friends feel inadequate serving anything more substantial.
We can all be a Mrs V.
My Mum was a Mrs V, and served everything with elegance and style. My Mum could serve jam sandwiches and Vienna coffee (that's black coffee with whipped and sweetened cream on top, dusted with cinnamon sugar) and people would feel like they'd have a first class feast.
We can all, like my friend La-La, like Mrs V, like my Mum, cultivate a speciality of our own, and serve or gift it with such elegance, that others will feel inadequate in gifting their wildly overpriced, store bought wonders.
What's yours going to be?