Oh, how fast time flies when you’re having fun! It feels as if my holidays just started, and yet my flight back to London is scheduled on Monday. Isn’t that scarily close?
I’m dying to tell you all about the three days I spent in Rome, one of the cities I love the most in the whole wide world. That will take time, though: there are tens of pictures to sort, and hundreds of fleeting impressions to note down. Until then, I’ll break the holiday blog hiatus with a festive post. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been asked how we celebrate Christmas in Italy, so I figured it’s about time to let you know what I’ve been up to this year.
1. A Lovely Lunch Feast
Even though mine’s a rather small family, we’re fond of our traditions. We prefer getting together for lunch on Christmas Day rather than dinner on Christmas Eve, plan our meal around my grandma’s stuffed guinea-fowl, and never fail to end it with a generous slice (or, actually, two!) of panettone.
This panettone is a thing of beauty. Artisan made, it comes directly from the renowned Pasticceria Marchesi in Milano, courtesy of a family friend who gets us one every year. Comparing to store-bought panettone, it’s unbelievably soft and fluffy, and packed with juicy raisins. Much to my delight, it contains very little candied orange: my real pet peeve when it comes to eating panettone, to the point that I have to dig it all out before taking the first bite – and pass all leftovers on to my very happy mum.
One of the best things about exchanging Christmas gifts is knowing that I’ll receive at least one piece of bakeware from my mum. She always seems to know exactly what I’m after, as if I’d actually taken her to the shop and showed her what I wanted. Just look at that bundt tin. I’m sure it will make my sweet tooth life (and blog!) much better.
I received lots of lovely feedback about the homemade granola I gave my friends. It’s the first year I make presents instead of buying them, and judging from the success of my little treats, the experiment’s definitely worth repeating. In the meantime, if you’re looking for a late Christmas gift, try my recipe. It takes as little as a couple of hours to whip up a batch of tasty honey nut granola; just pop it in a jar, wrap it with festive paper, and voilà. Your loved ones will love you even more.
The afternoon of Christmas Day is usually dedicated to nursing the post-lunch food coma, and being lazy on the sofa with my cat and a cup of tea. Italian TV pulls out the usual string of oldies and classics in the festive period, and it’s a safe bet that at least one channel will air a rerun of “Doctor Zhivago”, “Pretty Woman” or “Trading Places” – just like the year before.
If this was the UK, with its empty roads and public transport closures, there would be absolutely nothing else to do. But thankfully, this isn’t the UK: while my hometown’s guilty of boring its inhabitants to death with a non-existent offer of leisure opportunities, forcing them to stay in on Christmas Day isn’t one of its sins (yet). Many bars and shops in the city centre resume business as usual in the early evening, and so does our only cinema, where I headed with one of my best friends – and a crowd of other family gathering survivors. We watched “The secret life of Walter Mitty”: a heartwarming, positive film with an uplifting soundtrack. Too bad for the inconsistent plot, with all too obvious turning points, and far too many improbabilities to keep my Poor Film Radar from buzzing all throughout the screening. Well, I never said I’m an easy one to please!
4. A Light, Sweet Dinner
After the film, we needed a quiet place to have a chat and a bite to eat. It was the perfect occasion to head to the newly opened eatery my friend had long talked to me about, assuring me I was in for a surprise. Not expecting much from my unhip hometown, I was baffled to step into an American-style diner, boasting the best burgers in town (a pretty easy task, considering there are no other burger joints here) and a slick, stylish decor. If it weren’t for the small groups of thirty-somethings chatting with thick Northern Italian accents, I could have easily believed I was sitting in one of London’s trendy independent cafes.
Christmas Day, however, is no day for burgers. Not when I need to rest my stomach from the Christmas lunch feast, and prepare it for the equally trying Boxing Day lunch feast. The homemade cakes at the deli counter caught my eye, and it took one second to convince my friend to give them a try. We shared a slice of warm apple and cinnamon pie, and an excellent carrot cake without icing, sipping on two large cups of tea while everyone else enjoyed burgers, fries, and large glasses of red wine. Call us weird, but we loved it!
This was the best Christmas Day I had in ages, and there’s no doubt I’ll remember it for many years to come. How was yours, and what did you enjoy the most? I hope you had lots of great food and lovely presents; if you’re up for giving me a slightly belated one, don’t forget to click on the image below, and give my blog a vote for the 2014 UK National Blog Awards. Even though there’s no surprise or festive wrapping, I’ll appreciate it just the same.