If I had to pick just one thing to cook and eat at Christmas, it would be bread sauce. In fact, I think I would manage fine on bread sauce alone and this has nothing to do with ‘austerity’ which has become one of the most used words in Ireland in the last few years.
Bread Sauce is my emotional stabiliser as Christmas fires all the personal and public changes of the year, and indeed life, into the monstrous pressure cooker. Obviously, change can be both positive and negative but somehow all changes have to be processed and they seem to be at boiling point around Christmas and the New Year.
Bread Sauce has been part of my Christmas since I was a child. It connects me to the female line going way back to my grandmother and sideways to my sister. For me, it’s as constant as Santa and that’s saying it all. Santa never, ever let me down and he has a capacity to keep going, no matter what.
Bread Sauce starts on Christmas Eve with the halving of an onion and that view into the layers of life and what really matters. It may draw tears but these are soothed by the call of cloves begging to be inserted into the fleshy cracks. No matter what the weather, fresh bay leaves have to be picked from the little tree in the garden, itself born from a cutting from the big bay tree that lived outside Mother and Dad’s back door.
There is a need to live in the absolute present as the decorated onion, bay leaves and pepper corns come to the boil in a saucepan of milk. Milk, with all its connotations of motherhood, those calming words so often whispered in a comforting hug: Oh, no use crying over spilled milk …..
As everyone sleeps on Christmas Eve into Christmas morning, except Santa, the covered saucepan works its own mingling magic which rises to a tantalising aroma when re-heated in readiness for the handfuls of bread crumbs to be absorbed, a moment when you watch the ease with which connections can bring a whole new texture to life.
So often, over the years, the phone has rung as this very point. Big Sis with her cheery ‘Happy Christmas ….. remind me again about the bread sauce …..’ Of course, she hasn’t forgotten how to make it but she never fails to mention it!
Gently dissolving a knob of butter and adding cream ~ thoughts flowing to Granny and her handmade butter and real creamy, cream.
The first taste of the warm bread sauce, licked off the wooden spoon, serves as a main course in re-assurance that fundamental love prevails.