Kitchen Chronicles is a weekly series by Barbara Sibbald, a novelist and award-winning journalist and long-time contributor to Ottawa Magazine. Visit Kitchen Chronicles every Sunday for a new instalment — and a tested recipe.
Christmas hell too
Fiona’s making hard sauce* to go with the plum pudding that her mother insisted on bringing as her contribution to the Christmas dinner. Her pudding’s always dry and she’s stingy with the fruit, thinks Fiona, but the sugary sauce sets it on its feet. Besides, it’s part of the tradition; has been since I was little.
The phone rings; Fiona wipes her hands on the tea towel.
— Dad! she says.
I should’ve let the machine pick it up, she thinks. Neil is making gagging motions.
— What a nice surprise. Merry Christmas. Neil’s here too.
— Hi sweetheart. I guess you’re in the thick of it, but I thought I’d call and wish you a Merry Christmas.
— You too, Dad.
— Next year, you must come to our house. Lorelei would love to have you.
Over my dead body, thinks Fiona.
— We’ll see Dad. It’s expensive to travel at Christmas.
Not that he’d ever offer to help pay, she thinks resentfully. He’s loaded: three houses, including a chalet in Banff, sports cars, weekends in LA. Yet he wouldn’t think of giving anything to his kids.
— Well, you know how important you all are to me, he continues.
Yeah, thinks Fiona, that’s why you call at least once a year.
— I haven’t seen Gavin in two years; he must be quite the young man. You really shouldn’t be keeping him from me. I’m not a monster you know.
He laughs. Fiona’s throat tightens. Why can’t I let it go? she wonders. I’m a grown-up; he’s across the country.
— I’m in the middle of making hard sauce for the plum pudding, Dad. I’m going to pass the phone over to Neil. Merry Christmas.
Neil is waving his hands and mouthing no, no, but Fee passes him the phone. He takes it and wanders into the living room to chat.
— Is that your father? asks her mom, though she’s been sitting there the whole time, pretending to read her Chatelaine.
— Yes, says Fiona, turning her back on her mother and continuing to beat the hard sauce. (more…)