When I was a child, growing up in the ‘40s and 50’s in the north of England, a special Christmas treat in the form of a box of dates always appeared in the house. These were not the usual form of dates that got chopped up for cakes – the slightly dry, crusty form that look a bit like dead cockroaches – they were a much posher variety. They came in a thin wooden box with a small toothpick-thing for elegantly retrieving the contents one by one, and a picture on the lid of the fascinating and exotic East – Arabs in flowing colourful robes, palm trees and camels, against a desert background. I loved those boxes.
Now, of course, being older and wiser, I much prefer the contents to the tacky box. Such is the price of the loss of childhood innocence.
Dates, then, for Christmas, are the topic for today. I give you another couple of ideas for avoiding the traditional Christmas cake or pudding (although I really don’t understand why you would want to),
from the Date Cook Book (1919) by May Sowles Metzler.
How about pie? We have considered the enormous, famous, Yorkshire Christmas Pie in the past, but realistically – who is going to make that, in this day and age? Of course, if you also hate mince pies, you may still not like the first recipe, but there is a price to pay for choosing to be a curmudgeon, you know.
3 large lemons
2 dozen apples
2 pounds stoned raisins
1 pound stoned dates
1 pound currants
4 pounds brown sugar
1 ounce each of candied orange, lemon and citron peel
1 small pot marmalade
1 ½ pounds suet
1 pint boiled cider
Bake like mince pies.
For an even easier option, which moves definitively away from the ‘mince’ concept, how about this recipe, from the same source?
2 cups chopped dates
1 cup raw apples
¼ cup sugar
1 ½ cups milk.
Put dates and apples through a meat chopper, add the rest of the ingredients, and bake in one crust with twisted straps across the top.
Quotation for the Day.
Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind.
Mary Ellen Chase.