When I went home to Nassau for the holidays, from boarding school in Connecticut and at New York University, my mother’s treats were waiting, and I savored every morsel. We had an annual party with 200 or more friends and family on the last Sunday before Christmas. It was attended by icons in the community who became my colleagues or mentors in the business world many years later. I now realize the important role my mother played, investing in my future through her creativity and contacts, even before I became a career woman (not to mention ensuring my return visits).
After a tough semester and finals, I was able to hone my social skills over her delicacies and entertainment. My siblings and I spent the evening welcoming guests and relaying our progress. This abundance made me want to advocate for those close to me who were less fortunate because hunger levels were low when people had family. My mom always remembered how she started and wanted to help others. At the time, she owned an evening wear boutique in Nassau called Scruples: The Shape of Things to Come. I remember her stationed at her desk, stylishly dressed, highly intuitive, and elegant. There were always a few dresses in size 2 that she had carefully selected for “health conscious me” to wear.
Six or more holiday trees, all dressed in different themes, decorated the house, and there was an intoxicating aroma coming from the kitchen, made by one of my mother’s most appreciated holiday recipes: spiced cranberry sauce. For Boxing Day, there was homemade Christmas pudding and a classic Victorian fruitcake, as she was taught to make in Nassau when it was British territory. I thought her culinary skill and perfection were beyond me, but I think it all helped to form the joie de vivre that made me a creative author, and now she likes the holiday scenes in my novels. These days, holidays are more private and relaxed, but I am grateful for my mother’s influence.
Gabrielle F. Culmer is a writer who divides her time between Nassau, Europe, and New York City. She can be found at www.gabriellefculmer.com.
Spiced Cranberry Sauce
(adapted from Encyclopedia of Cooking, 1962 edition)
12 oz. fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 – 1 c. sugar
2/3 c. water
1/3 c. apple cider vinegar
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. allspice
1/2 t. cloves
Rinse cranberries and remove any distorted ones.
Place the remainder in a pot with water, vinegar, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice.
Simmer for 20 minutes until cranberries pop and the sauce is condensed.
Let cool and refrigerate.