It’s now January, and I think I have lived in my kitchen for the last four weeks. I have magic chore whored my ARSE off so much that if I sit down, I’m fucking balancing on my ribs. And there's a whole lotta New Year magic shit to get going, so I have to finish Midwinter before I can possibly start on any of the 2012 magic chores (my fucker of an OCD demon won't let me!) So, here’s the low-down on the Old Kitchen Witch’s Magical Midwinter. Grab a drink, get someone else to fix you some food because we may be here for some time, my pretties *cackle*.
To recap: the a-fucking-mazing Ms Dirty set up the Midwinter Magic/Holy Supper challenge, and right from the start there was no way I was chickening out of this one. First things first - the ancestors. I know very little about my ancestry, as I said here, but I do work with my Nana on a regular basis (I’ll do a whole post on my Nana one day, she was one helluva woman) and I wanted to honour her first and foremost. Then I thought of my Great-Uncle and Aunt, who were very close to Nana (and completely mad as hatters - my favourite kind of people), so they should be included too.
So, the menu. Well, it really should have been goose. Nana used to buy two goslings in the spring and raise them all summer. At Christmas she would slaughter and prepare both for roasting - one would be our Christmas dinner and one would be sold to pay for the next year’s goslings. But I wimped out - I’ve never roasted goose before, so I went for a beautiful organic duck instead. It still fits: we would all travel to my Grandparents a couple of days before Christmas and she always did roast duck for the afternoon when everyone got there. So duck it was. Goose is for next year! (Oh yes, there WILL be a next year!)
Seeing as Ms Dirty got us into this, it was only fitting that some seriously superb Ms Dirty produce was included in the meal, so I planned home-made paté using some Wild Woodland Mix of ‘shrooms, and a Boozy Bakewell Tart with her Necrofuckingtastic plum rum sauce.
We needed to include the Witchlets as much as possible - this is a tradition I want them to grow up with, and remember with fondness when they reach my advanced age (and hey, maybe do it themselves!) so the meal was planned for early afternoon - too late in the evening and we would have had children snoring face down in the gravy (the Witchlets are early risers; neither seems to be able to stay awake past 8pm which is FINE BY ME) and I’m told snorting roast meat juices isn’t desirable at their tender ages.
The finalised menu looked like this:
Leek & Potato soup (our home-grown potatoes, our neighbour’s home-grown leeks)
Chicken & Duck liver paté with wild mushrooms
- both served with fresh soda bread
Roast organic duck
Rosemary roast potatoes cooked in goose fat (I got a bit of goose in there!!!!)
Sprouts and chestnuts sautéed in brown butter
Honey-roasted parsnips (neighbour’s garden again)
Thyme buttered carrots
Yorkshire puddings (because there would be a family revolt if I didn’t serve yorkie puds with a roast dinner. They’ll forgive me many things, but lack of yorkies and I’d be history.)
Chocolate Yule log (to keep my resident chocoholic Witchlets sweet)
Boozy Bakewell Tart
Local cheeses with Port (obviously I wasn’t giving any Port to the Witchlets before ANY OF YOU LOT THINK ABOUT CALLING SOCIAL SERVICES!)
But what about ye olde traditional element to the dinner? That carefully researched dish from ye dim and distant past of ye dim and distant ancestors? Yeah, I guess it could look a bit like I’ve missed the point - AHA!!! THAT’S WHERE YOU ARE WRONG!!! The plan includes all four of used parading out to our lone apple tree (grown from a pip, ten years old, never flowered or fruited) and wassailing the hell out of it, hanging toast dipped in Lamb’s Wool (a traditional spiced mulled ale or cider) from its branches and scaring away any evil spirits that are stopping it fruiting by banging drums, tambourines and shouting. (I was pretty certain the kids would be up for this bit.)
Menu sorted, I could turn my attention to decorations. As usual, our main living/dining room was decorated with as much red, gold and green as could be stuffed in the place. I can’t help it; I realise that black, pink, blue, red fake trees seemed to be the in-thing this year, but it’s just not right - sorry!
I’m so ridiculously anally retentive about my decorations that I only do them when everybody is out of the house and I’ve told the Witchlets that the Yule Fairy comes and does them. It’s my OCD demon - all the decorations have to go up in a certain order, in the same place each year, and don’t even THINK about suggesting anything different. I felt quite bad that I JUST CAN’T let the Witchlets get involved that I bought them a mini-tree each, with multicoloured lights and lots of sparkly baubles for them to decorate in their bedrooms. (They adored that, by the way.) I even fake-leaded and snowed the windows. ALL of them (here's just the back door and window!)
Just as I got the decorations down from the roof-space, I got a call from the tree-surgeons we’d spoken to about removing two hulking great Leylandii trees from our front garden. Initially they couldn’t do it until January, but suddenly they had some spare time - did I want them down now? Too fucking right I did. They left me with a beautiful off-cut of trunk for a Yule Log, and I got an awful lot of greenery for the house (and to dry for incense - much as I hate the rapid growth of Leylandii, I do love their smell). The gods were working with me already.
In the roof space I found a second 7ft narrow fake tree that I’d completely forgotten I’d been given by a friend last year. Considering I was about to be spending one hell of a lot of time in the kitchen over the coming few days, I put it up next to the fridge-freezer for some added sparkle. I had a string of 200 lights to go on it. I’m not stupid, you know (stop laughing in the back, I can throw knives) so I plugged it in to check they worked before spending a ridiculous amount of time winding it around the tree. Plugged them in - nothing. Absolutely fucking not working. I went from one light to another, twisting and pushing, but still no fucking twinkle. Luckily I had a spare set, and they went on, worked perfectly without any trouble. Just to be sure, I plugged the first set in again as they lay on the kitchen floor… yeah, you guessed it, the fuckers lit up. If I tell you that tree is dead opposite The Old Man’s altar - you know who I blame for the whole sorry affair. He’s got a fucking sense of humour on him, that’s for sure. Why it’s nearly always directed at me, I’ll never know. (It’s ok, he’s taken pity on me and said I can have a shot of his spiced rum now.)
*glug* So anyway, lounge/diner decorated, kitchen tree up, I then remember that I bought some glass icicles earlier in the year, so they went up on the herb drying pole above the kitchen window. Just the altars to do at last. The Old Man got really giggly and silly when he got two Green Man cards (one from me; one from hubby and the Witchlets) and an arrangement of ivy and fir cuttings for his altar. I’d also got him a pyramid candle (it’s black, and as it burns down it has red wax in the middle - we’ve got some serious workings to do in 2012 and the candle is a big part of it) and some Cadbury’s Snowball sweets. (He almost regretted the whole fairy light thing then…. almost).
The seasonal altar got decorated, and I remembered the beeswax Yule candle I’d bought a couple of years previously (and forgotten about in the bottom of a box). The Green Man bronze plaque above the seasonal altar was still my Autumn one - the Winter should have been put up at Samhain, but something stopped me this year, and I decided we’d put up Winter as part of the ritual of the Midwinter Feast.
That just left Hekate’s altar. I was going to petition Her to escort the Ancestors back for the festivities, and She has Her moments of being a bit prickly, so I left her altar until I’d done a midnight divination to see whether She was amenable (the fallback plan was to ask The Old Man; I knew he’d be more than happy to bring back the ancestors, but he might add a few others on the way and I’d rather he didn’t for this one - he’s such a party animal at times.) and thank Her, She was. More than amenable, I actually caught her being rather swept away by the whole thing, so she got some pine cones and a bit of tastefully minimal gold decorations along with more fir and ivy from the garden. I also added Nana’s wedding photo to Her altar, and checked that it would be ok for me to serve the Ancestors their meal on Her altar. At this point I might just have mentioned to Her that I wanted to splash out and treat myself to some new crockery for the meal. Low and behold that afternoon, in walks hubby with a box.
“New plates,” he said, “Poppy design. Red, black and white. Do you like them?”
Do I fucking like them? I love them! (Red, black and white… hmmm, I think Someone has had Her hand in this one!)
Now I had menu, I had crockery, I had decorations - time to get cooking. It's not just time to plan Holy Supper, my friends, but with two Witchlets now in school, I had buns and cakes and treats to bake for school parties (and it's WAR in the playground about who can bring the best home-made cupcakes!)
But you are going to have to wait. I’m dead on my fucking feet, I need another drink and to go remind my husband I still exist. The Midwinter Meal/Holy supper story will continue (with recipes! And added Spirits of the Dead! Stay tuned!)