I’ve been trying to remember what we used to have in our Christmas order from Fortnum & Mason. I should think we ordered the stilton from there. We used to have a whole stilton; we had a round cheesedish with a big cover. The top crust of the cheese was cut off and we scooped out helpings with a cheese scoop. There was, apparently, a tradition of pouring port into the cheese, but we never did that – sounds like a good way of ruining both stilton and wine to me.
Then there were the sweets. I remember we had griottes en cognac – hope I’ve got the name right. Brandied cherries in dark chocolate. We also used to have butterscotch rolled in flaked almonds; I can’t remember their name. *Something* amandine, logically enough, but the missing word is the one that matters. They were gorgeous and I haven’t been able to get them for years – I’ve asked but haven’t tracked them down. We used to buy tea and coffee from F&M all year round; we drank Earl Grey tea and you couldn’t get that locally in those days. We sent for it and coffee beans every month or so.
I can’t remember what else we bought. Things like tinned anchovies, olives and olive oil, avocado pears … in the 1950s and early 1960s few people used these things, but my parents were early devotees of Elizabeth David and were adventurous cooks. My mother went to a great deal of trouble with food and my father was a keen vegetable gardener. We had a full-time gardener, but Daddy had an extra greenhouse too, where he grew the things he fancied. I remember one year he grew loofahs and had his picture in the local paper. We used them for years and the black seeds used to drop out in the bath. I’ve grown them myself, they are like cucumbers to grow, but you have to leave the fruit to dry out, until only the skeleton is left. If it starts to blacken at all, the whole thing will rot, so that needs care. I hung them above the Aga to dry out slowly.
Anyway, yesterday my sister and I pottered happily around F&M food hall for some time, and I bought a Christmas pudding. She says her contribution to Christmas dinner will be champagne and smoked salmon. I think I’m all sorted.