PACIFIC PALATE – Don Genova

A ‘Main Street’ Christmas

“It was the food shops that Merry Christmassed the hardest. In Mr. Saunder’s, the grocer’s, window was a real Santa Clause grinding coffee … In the window all round Santa were bonbons, cluster raisins, nuts and candied fruit, besides long walking-sticks made of peppermint candy.” – Emily Carr

Emily Carr’s memories of Christmas in Victoria in the 1870s captured the typical excitement of children at that time of year. It was the same for me, growing up in southern Ontario in the 1960s.

While the stores of my era were in suburban malls instead of Main Street, and department stores and supermarkets had replaced small grocers and butcher shops, there was still that air of excitement driven by decorations, music, and of course, the special foods.

My father would bring home boxes of chocolates and fruitcakes from the dairy farmers he serviced, picking up their milk with his tank truck. My mother would carefully hoard those goodies and dole them out in small batches so my brother, sister and I didn’t gorge ourselves silly.

Our family of five would arrive at the house of my spinster aunts and bachelor uncle early in the afternoon of Christmas Day. The turkey was roasting in the ‘special occasion’ downstairs kitchen, and in the large rec room a long table was laid for about 20 family members, kids all together closest to the Christmas tree with its piles of gifts, off limits until after our mid-afternoon dinner. There was turkey and all the trimmings, followed by many kinds of Christmas cookies, Sicilian pastries and bowls of nuts to be cracked by the fire.

Many of the people around that table have passed away now, and that tradition is lost. But here on the West Coast, my wife and I host a regular Christmas Eve gathering of friends, which includes the Sicilian tradition of seven courses of fish, boxes of chocolates, and maybe this year, I’ll try my hand at those fig and almond pastries only my Aunt Polly knew how to make. I finally found a recipe.

Don Genova is a Vancouver Island-based award-winning freelance journalist specializing in food and travel. Find him online at dongenova.com.

 

 

Just Posted

VORACIOUS: Local vegan restaurant a nice surprise for omnivores

Be Love’s Mac & Cheese is a culinary creation, writes Monday reviewer Allan Reid

Tom Petty tribute comes to the Capital Ballroom

Petty tribute band plays Jan. 26 in Victoria

Cougar Annie Tales coming to Sooke

Katrina Kadoski will reprise her one-woman role

Stephen Hardy Palmer performs at Sooke Folk Coffeehouse

Musician bring a variety of music genres to the stage

Victoria embraces literacy, announces new poet laureates

John Barton and Aziza Moqia Sealey-Qaylow take on respective adult and youth roles

‘Thank you Victoria!’: Team Kazakhstan

World junior underdog team thanks Victoria for its support

Stan Lee’s devoted fans can mourn him at Hollywood memorial

Lee, whose co-creations include Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk and Black Panther, died Nov. 12 at age 95

The suspense is over: Kevin Hart will not host Oscars

Hart says he’s not hosting the Oscars this year after suggesting he’d reconsider

Netflix and chill no more: Streaming is getting complicated

Disney and WarnerMedia are each launching streaming services to challenge Netflix’s dominance

Snubs, surprises and a Satanic shout-out? Key Globes moments

The 2019 Globes were much less overtly activist or political than previous years

WATCH: Phillip Manning and Robert Holliston to team up on works by German composers

Schumann, Brahms, and more featured in Jan. 13 concert at St. Michaels Church in Chemainus

Get ready for a great 2019 at the Chemainus Theatre

From Mamma Mia! to The Foreigner, there’s plenty for everyone to enjoy this year

April Wine sweetness: Missing guitar found 46 years later in Victoria

B.C. man contacted Myles Goodwin on Facebook, saying he thought he had his cherished instrument

Comic Debra DiGiovanni says Snowed In tour feels like ‘comedy camp’

Four Canadian comics set to warm up audiences at Victoria’s Royal Theatre Jan. 12

Most Read