What is your favourite Christmas treat?
The photo is of my own Christmas biscuit production, about 10 years ago.
Treat? According to the Oxford dictionary which is British, and I am a Brit, the meaning would be “An event or item that is out of the ordinary and gives great pleasure”, so it does not have to be food, but in the Christmas context I think of food because I do not think battling my way through packed stores to buy Christmas gifts would be a treat, thus I have now abolished Christmas Presents. Sending Christmas cards is also no longer a treat because I have to write them by hand, and my hand no longer wants to write what I want it to write. Then you have to ensure that you have enough stamps, and as my Christmas cards seems to make a world journey, I need different stamps.
Do I have fun at Christmas, do I have treats? Yes, today I do, because it is a quiet Christmas. My Brit family are now almost extinct, I just have a few friends and cousins in England and they do not arrive in Switzerland for Christmas. It is Mr. Swiss, No. 1 son, the cat and me. No. 2 son now has a wife and all the trimmings and lives on the other side of Switzerland. He has his own Christmas now and that is OK with me. My treat is now peace and quite, no stress, and cooking for three (and feeding the cat) instead of a multitude of family members.
There is a Swiss baking customs at Christmas. I think it is an unspoken competition between the Swiss housewives to see who can bake the most varieties of Christmas bisuits, in various flavours and shapes. Not only this, but they are decorated with many aristic designs. I once joined in with this baking orgy annually when the kids were still kids. Mr. Swiss was also quite partial to a cinammon star (Zimtstern) or brownie (brunsli – chocolate biscuit). The butter bisuits in various shapes (Mailanderli) were also a popular addition as they were the biscuits you could decorate with icing and little coloured sprinkles. Of course there were the aniseed breads (Chrabbeli) which you pressed into a shape and became a picture on the top surface. Oh what fun.
Note they all have their own name to simplify matters perhaps. It is a matter of logistics and science to know what you are doing, when you are doing it and how you are doing it. Many housewives begin to plan after the summer holidays, I am sure, I just bought kilos of flour and ground almonds, icing sugar and a few kilo of lemons and organges, together with a king sized block of chocolate. I included a bottle of cognac and some Kirsch just for flavouring of course and then I was at the starting point.
My kitchen was transformed into a battle field in no time. The floor was covered with flour, my hands spread finger prints everywhere from the sticky pastry and I spent a happy 3-4 hours making at least 8 different sorts of pastry and cutting them into shapes with the special cutters. My favourites to eat and Mr. Swiss were the lemon biscuits with a soft lemon icing and pieces of lemon peel.
After this baking marthon was finished I spent a happy hour cleaning the kitchen and packed the various biscuit treats in their own tins. One advantage was you did not have to bother with organising biscuits for Christmas, you already had enough to feed an army for a few months.
My favourite treat was to complete this marathon, donate various selections to other housewife colleagues and families, to prove I did it as well. Then we could begin to criticise and make a list of who baked the best and which sort was edible or not edible.
There are some things about Christmas, when reflecting, that I am glad have come to pass and belong to history. Collapsing exhusted under the Christmas tree is now a thing of the past, and wearing a merry face just for the benefit of the evening is no longer. I now thankfully accept home grown Christmas biscuits from various female family members, or buy them in a shop. My treat: to have a quiet stressless Christmas and the rest is just a side dish.