My son’s school sent home a flyer. It said: “Come Celebrate Your Culture & Heritage! You are encouraged to bring a dish that reflects your family’s traditions.”
The organizers of this event have no idea what they are getting themselves into. At our house, we had to come up with our own family traditions because the ones my husband and I grew up with could literally kill you. Our families did things like invite anyone to stop by for the Thanksgiving leftovers, which were thoughtfully left out on the counter for days on end. Or they would keep a bowl of hard-boiled Easter eggs on the kitchen table so people could help themselves to one whenever they wanted — for the rest of the week. After all, the theory went, that’s why you boil them.
I actually did some research on this to see whether I was being persnickety about food safety. According to the internet, it’s amazing we’re alive at all.
One of the holiday traditions we started on our own here on the Cape, a tradition I imagine is uniquely ours, is the Christmas Trout Pudding. It is this Christmas Trout that the kids write about when they’re forced to produce an essay on our family’s holiday traditions. It is the Christmas Trout, along with sulfur-scented Easter eggs and botulism-bestrewn turkey, that we will not be bringing to school as a reflection of our family’s traditions.
Nonetheless, we’ve been enjoying Trout Pudding for nearly a decade, joyfully sharing it with friends on Christmas Day. And we have all survived.
The friend who gave us the recipe calls it a Christmas pudding and makes it in a pretty mold that lends itself to a lovely garnish and a dusting of powdered sugar. We do not have a pretty mold like hers. Nor do we have the Christmas tree mold that my mother made tomato aspic in — a combination of strawberry Jell-O and stewed tomatoes. But we do have one of those copper fish-shaped molds that people typically made salmon mousse in, back when nothing was sacred and everything was mixed with gelatin. Since our home is affectionately known as Trout Towers (I married into a recording studio called Sonic Trout), we have deemed the copper fish to be a trout.
The recipe is basically a cake batter spiked with cranberries, poured into the mold of one’s choice, and steamed.
When I’ve incurred the necessary number of steam-related burns checking on its progress, we take the pudding — now a cake — out of its steam bath and decant it on a platter. The one on the recipe is garnished with mint leaves and cranberries arranged to look like holly, while ours, formed in our own traditional Trout mold, looks like an amputated appendage. We opt not to photograph it. We also don’t garnish ours, because everything we attempt to use just makes it look worse, including, but not restricted to, putting an apple in its mouth and using real sprigs of berry-laden holly as a throwback to our family traditions of trying to kill people.
I am sure that no one at our son’s school has ever seen anything like it. On second thought, maybe I will go ahead and send one of these in to school — along with one of my mom’s tomato strawberry Jell-O concoctions and a bowl of Easter eggs.
It will explain a lot.