Bizcuits | Time: the Christmas gift

Leanda Lee

Christmas 2018 marks the year we sent nothing to landfill.

Ten family members sat down to Christmas dinner of ham (honey-glazed with assistance from the bees up the garden), and roast crackling pork, prawns done two ways, the salads, and bread and smoked salmon eased down with a prequel magnum of Moët while we stood out under the grapefruit tree, and a scattering of local wines thereafter. The secret family Christmas pudding recipe was ceremoniously passed on to the most deserving of the next generation in another momentous occurrence.

The previous day, Grandma’s short-bread, (fruit-)mince pies, freshly baked scones with jam from the neighbours’ loquats and – in a nod beyond sugar and carbohydrates – Quiche Lorraine with home-made cheese and greens plucked from the veggie patch were had for afternoon tea with 13 friends and neighbourhood drop-ins: the 7-month aged fruit cake, force-fed with brandy over that period, and covered by now with rock- hard royal icing was the pièce de résistance.

As I write, a rumbling on the road in front of the house alerts me to our waste-free status this Christmas; the weekly rubbish truck just passed by not ten minutes ago – it is late this post-Christmas stinking-hot 36-degree Australian Thursday afternoon, as I enjoy summer holidays with family. Late, probably due to the driver having to stop every now and again to collect Christmas thank-you presents left out by the generous and thoughtful.

Our bins had not been put out last night for collection because, although there were bottles and cans for recycling, it could go another month or so, and the bin destined for landfill had had nothing added to it this week – this Christmas week!

As the abundance on the table suggests, there were no scrooge moments. We had lots of presents under the Christmas tree, a real one smelling of freshly-cut pine, reminiscent of a 1970s after-shave. It has taken us five years of mindful consumption and – as some might say – slow indoctrination, but this year it all came together.

Wrapping and ribbons had been put aside from previous years and reused creatively, just as in my childhood; jams, jellies and biscuits had been baked and presented in glass with pretty cloth wrapping and hand-written cards; special truffle oils and salt bought; exquisite cologne and “happy” socks; and lots of books exchanged. The little girl next door was happier unwrapping and messily savouring her favourite fruit and crawling after our retreating dog than receiving some bit of momentary attention-holding plastic thing. Watching the dog doing a body-wag as he snuffled his way through brown paper to his chicken-treat had all eyes smiling – he had been sniffing at that package under the tree for days!

We had largely skipped the supermarket this year. Brandy custard in tetra-paks, pavlovas in cardboard boxes, brandy-snaps and cakes in moulded plastic, puddings and all the trappings are readily available, and it really would only take an hour to gather everything together for a bang-up Christmas luncheon. But that’s not special. Anything so readily accessible by simply opening a wallet to a faceless corporation just does not cut it in the “special” category stakes. Besides, the wastage and plastic footprint from such consumption quickly tips it into the “ugly” category. Instead, we planned and pre-ordered ingredients from local producers and grew and made a lot.

The one major investment this year has been time – together.

Conversations had throughout the year that had revealed preferences had been listened to and remembered in the planning over the months. Somehow, investing time to understand individually held gift-related philosophies and quirks really made a big difference this year. Some chose not to give, and some chose not to receive, some chose to participate and some to observe Christmas. And, it was good.

Categories Opinion