Dreaming of a homemade Christmas

For yet another year, here I find myself again in the whirlwind of December, wishing — oh yes, really, really wishing! — that I had the time and energy to give out Christmas gifts that are homemade and handmade. Over and above that, I so wish I had the time to package these gifts myself. Oh, that would be so lovely, and my gifts even more so. Really. I will make sure they will delight the way most everything should this festive season. What would I do? More like what would I do first, I think. I’d make what I decide to make, whether in the kitchen or on a big wooden table, knowing for sure that it will be a gift of both hand and heart, and that in the process I will be all the better, and happier, for it. That makes for such a lovely, happy thought. I daydream about that in the craziest of days and it makes me smile.

In my dreams I have fruit trees from which I could pluck fresh fruits, but really, even just a tomato plant will do. I’d perfect a chunky recipe for tomato jam that would be lovely on crackers or toast, to be enjoyed with some friendly cheese in between bites. By “friendly” I mean some mild-flavored cheese like Emmental or Gruyere. But first I have to grow my own sweet, juicy tomatoes, right? All I know from the last time I asked is that tomatoes can grow almost anywhere that is warm and a little damp for as long as loads of TLC (adequate sunlight and water included) is channeled to it. Great patience is then rewarded with an abundance of plump, juicy tomatoes. Fruit of the earth. How easy it all sounds. If I could just will things to happen I’d have more than just one lovely six-foot tomato plant by now. I would pluck them and seed them and make them in small batches in beautiful copper pots. Once cooked and cooled, I’d scoop them into lovely glass jars, attached with handwritten labels I designed myself. And if the recipient really, absolutely loved my jam I’d even share the recipe.  Maybe. And with a handwritten Christmas wish I’d send each jar off with the hope that it is enjoyed in copious amounts throughout the season. My very own Christmas special.

What else would I make from the kitchen? I am very blessed to have helpers that stay with us forever and ever, and each of them come with their own special talent. I’ve taught them our Birch Tree Polvoron recipe and they can do it with their eyes closed. Always they mold and wrap each carefully in the happiest colors — no sad, drab colors, I always tell them! — and we package them in clear containers with nice stickers or labels and ribbons. We make them all year round for dear friends and family who randomly text or call, asking for more and more. It delights me, knowing there is a gift that comes from scratch from our very own kitchen. And yes, I’ve tried using others for polvoron but Birch Tree gives the best flavor.

Helen, one of my girls, makes a peanut brittle of sorts in big, flat rounds. I’m thinking they could be stacked one on top of the other like pancakes, perhaps eight of them (that number being my favorite), and then placed in a round tin. Again, I would design a label especially for it, replete with the ingredients, plus a little story. I like stories. That would make the can look really pretty. I also have a tried-and-tested recipe for butter cake and chocolate chip cookies which I already have beautiful containers for, and our Yaya Hilda makes legendary chicken pork adobo using native chicken. Oh, I wish everyone could try that. It will make you fat and pudgy because of all the rice you will eat with it but I am telling you, it is worth the torment of knowing your waist is thicker (just make sure you can counter it with exercise and some portion control after the holidays so that the weight you gain will not stay). For that I think I would like to use a very big glass jar with a wide mouth. I’d bundle the big jar using a set of kitchen towels in a nice print and tie it all up with twine. Or I can just cover the cap with gingham cloth and, again, attach a very pretty label on one side of the jar.

If I could just source a lovely shallow rectangular dish I can also give what we simply know at home as libgaw, a Spanish ceviche of sorts — flat fillets of small white fish the size of tawilis swimming in a bed of vinegar, olive oil and garlic slivers. It is a very white, very delicious dish, one that I again eat with lots of rice, and it will make a nice gift.

So. Those are what I would have done. If. Maybe next year. For now, what I have been able to do is buy most of my Christmas presents early, order nice wrappers and special packaging, write out cards individually. I just have to sort them out and put them together before routing delivery.

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