The white chocolate mousse in my coffee means that Christmas has officially, and in spite of the almost total lack of anything spirit-y in my heart, begun.
My sister Emily and I have spent the last six Christmases at my home in Nanaimo carving out our own traditions with my son Gabriel. Our approach is simple and based almost entirely on the production, consumption, and digestion of food. Required viewing includes Food Network marathons and The West Wing on DVD.
I regard my love of food and working in the kitchen as one of the greatest gifts our mother was able to give us. (That and the way I can take care of people–I mean really take care of them–when they’re sick.) Say what you will about our questionable upbringing but food was always plentiful and served with love (often conditional, yes, but filling just the same.) Through our rocky adult lives, food has remained an anchor, one my sister and I cling to especially during the holiday season.
One of the most satisfying traditions we’ve developed is the All Day Baby Shower Buffet: rolls, deli meat, cheese, pickles, crudite, dip, potato chips. This is all chased with whatever sweets may be left on hand: Rice Krispee Squares, jam tarts (mom’s recipe), and shortbread.
The white chocolate mousse is a newer addition left over from the construction of The Buche de Noel cake (aka a “yule log”, lovingly referred to as “the buche”.) This is the single most fiddly confection in my repertoire: it comes out only once a year, the recipe is Martha Stewart’s, and I spread the making over three days to avoid developing such a hate-on for the thing that I abandon it entirely. Every year while I plug away at the buche Emily prepares enough raw vegetables and dip to last for days. The Baby Shower Buffet is her fiddly labour of love.
But this year Emily and her partner are tied up with their new restaurant in Vancouver, she’s pregnant, and they just moved in to a new place. It will be the first Christmas we’ve spent apart since our relationship was reforged as healthy, somewhat slightly better adjusted adults.
To say that I miss her so much it hurts is cliche and wholly inadequate. When I put the white chocolate mousse in my coffee this morning it was delicious, yes, but bittersweet. It makes me doubly thankful we aren’t actually alone: there’s this really swell guy who’s been hanging around a lot lately so I’ll have someone to watch movies with tonight, to bake and cook with, and to wake up with tomorrow morning. As a tradition grows and changes, another one always comes along to take its place. I think the white chocolate mousse is a keeper though. I love you, sister.