Christmases overseas were spent pursuing the British traditions of my childhood – a decorated tree with gifts piled beneath it and dinner of turkey with stuffing, brussel sprouts, roasted potatoes and of course mince pies and Christmas cake in abundance. None of which was an easy achievement when living in Muslim countries and often involved shopping for vital ingredients and supplies while on summer vacation (Christmas crackers and mincemeat in August? Hmmm). It also involved learning to cook a lot of things from scratch, as there were no microwave stuffing mixes or pre-basted turkeys in Baku in 1998.
When we first returned to Canada I enjoyed the convenience of having everything to hand just when I needed it, but this year, having cooked a turkey dinner at Thanksgiving, the thought of doing it all again so soon seemed, well, blah. A foodie friend (who will also be my guest on Christmas Day) suggested a lamb tagine and the idea caught my imagination. Why not a Middle Eastern themed Christmas Dinner? After all, Mary & Joseph wouldn’t have been tucking into turkey and cranberry sauce all those years ago, more like hummus and tabouleh.
So now here I am again tracking down elusive ingredients like tahini paste, sumach and rose water as I prepare for the big day next week. I’ve pulled out the cook book which friends in Dubai gave me as a leaving present and I’m chopping and blending as I cook from scratch, just as I did in my days in Baku.
Seems no matter where I am, I’m thinking of someplace else.