Traditionally I would spend the holidays with either of our families but because of how things were around our marriage, and because his side of the family is on the other side of the continent, we couldn’t do that for our first-ever Christmas. Instead, we made it ourselves, in our one-room apartment, with a very low budget and some handmade decorations. And let me tell you, it was incredible!
It was fun and exciting not only because it was the first time I planned things out to this extent but also because my husband hadn’t celebrated the infamous birth of Christ since he comes from a culture of Judaism.
I started the day with something I had not done before properly, rice porridge. It is one of the traditions here in Finland to have some of this creamy goodness with an almond hidden in it. Whoever gets the almond is supposed to have better luck the coming year (Mr. Vana tried his best to dig through the porridge to cheat at finding the almond but in the end, I managed to get it on my plate in glorious victory). People can also make things such as plum or raisin soup to go with it but I decided against it since neither of us really enjoys such things, it’s cinnamon and sugar for this Fair Lady!
After the meal, I started making some decorations.
I sank hours into Origami, learning about paper baubles and stars and whatnot in an attempt to try and make the best of what we had. And well. We had a branch that I had carved into a staff eons ago when I was still living in my hometown. My dog at the time managed to pee a tree to death in our yard and when it was finally cut down I decided to save a part of it.
The baubles proved to be quite the hassle, I may or may not have lost my temper a few times while I was trying to get them to behave. In the end, I succeeded in wrangling them into behaving though and so, we had an amazing Xmas Branch with my heritage star on top (it is the star we used to have back home when the family was still intact and the holidays full of mystery and joy for a child).
After the branch was done it was time to move on to the making of our two-person feast and the final steps of the dessert while Mr. Vana finished up with his work. I locked myself in the bathroom, put on a nice red dress, and prettied myself up with a final touch of clip-on earrings (since I’ve opted out of any body-altering black magics) and the amazing snowflake necklace my husband got me.
The typical Finnish Christmas meal follows a pattern: you have your fishy round (salmon in various forms, other fishes in sauces, fish eggs, mushrooms, paté maybe, etc) and after that, there would be the casseroles made from things like carrots and potato as well as the crowning glory of the holiday- the ham. But as it happens, I can not serve Mr. Vana Piglet on a platter so I had to think a little bit out of the box.
For the main dish, I made some pan-fried chicken breast, coconut-curry sauce with a hint of lemon, and pink potato mash. Yes, pink potatoes are a thing, something about the antioxidants in nature coloring them, which is fine by me since I have had some dark purple potatoes too way back in Vocational-school. Mr. Vana did an amazing job with the mash!
As for the side dishes I whipped up some herbal mushrooms, cold smoked salmon, and salmon mousse, as well as a Chantelle salad that we ended up tossing because oh boy I should’ve listened to my gut when I was measuring up the white wine vinegar and it screamed ‘’Don’t do it!”. Let’s bypass that as a momentary lapse in judgment and move right on shall we?
As for the table and setting it, well, we are currently living in a very space-challenged apartment and the pc took its place on our one table at that time that we also used to eat at, but I managed to clear ‘’my side’’ of it. I set our food on it, gave it some mood lighting, and made room for the home restaurant plates used.
All and all it was a nice meal, at least we didn’t remain hungry and some of the things we even saved for an evening snack. After dinner, Mr. Vana gifted me the sweetest thing ever, the things he had held on to from our first (online)date. He actually dried the rose he got for me back in Israel so he could give it to me one day, and he wrote me a note back then, roughly six months before. It said ‘’I love you’’. Talk about a romantic, committed-to-the-cause kind of guy, eh?
Oh but wait. Did I forget about something?
The first-ever cheesecake I made and let me tell you I almost got an anxiety attack over this thing. How would I know about the number of cookies to use in the bottom since the pack we got is big and the cookies thin?! (Mr. Vana calculated an exact number of cookies based on their weight just to make it easier for my mentally challenged mind.) And what am I going to do about the gelatin, it’s made out of pigs and I don’t know anything about any other method?! (Turns out agar powder is not that scary to use, even if we did end up with some random bits in the filling cause of some clumps that didn’t get mixed in well) And is it even going to set in time?!
Well. I’m just going to say the cake was amazing. The gingerbread cookie bottom, the white chocolate filling with some lemon, even the mulled wine (glögi) glaze that ended up oozing all over because of my procrastination, all of it was wonderful. Add to that the white-hot chocolate with a touch of cinnamon and we were in sugar heaven for quite a while before we gave in and yielded to the bed in terror that our bellies would never be the same again.