The first time I tried Lebkuchen, it was from a small bakery in Ruislip, on the High Street, owned by an Austrian couple. It was so yummy, the mere thought of it is making my mouth water. The offerings in the photograph aren't anywhere near as good... they have a sell-by date for next year, whereas the freshly-baked ones had to be eaten soon... Very Soon I said! They crumbled in the mouth, the taste was gorgeous.. these are a bit dry and have an artificial taste to them, but in the absence of an Austrian bakery and freshly made ones, they 'will do'.
They are part of my Christmas treats, delights that I always associate with this time of year. The gorgeous smells from the kitchen of home made whisky mincemeat and sloe gin. Of oranges starred with cloves to hang in the porch. Of fresh greenery from the garden to entwine with scarlet ribbons, lay across the mantlepiece of both our fireplaces, interspersed with fat ivory candles. Of dried apple rings and burning apple logs.
The tastes evocative of Christmas for me include roasted chestnuts, home made parsnip crisps and spiced nuts for nibbles, Christmas cake with Wensleydale cheese, violet and rose creams, a box of handmade chocolates, Bendicks mints. REAL Turkish delight... not the chocolate covered apology for the stuff. I had an aunt who could eat the real Turkish Delight by the box, stuffing one piece in after another.. so fond was she of this that she had a box for her and a box for visitors. She and I never really got on, she was a Lady Bracknell type of woman who looked down her nose at me and most other members of the family. To be honest, although I have bought a wooden box of real turkish delight for the first time this year, I am not sure if I really like it - but the box is very pretty!
Sights to delight include a real Christmas tree... we have a slow growing one in a large pot in the garden, which lives out of sight of the house for eleven months of the year, then we wheel it up to the patio, string fairy lights on it and go 'Aah' every time, even though it looks the same, just maybe a little bit bigger. I am always enchanted by houses with fairy lights around the doors, the eaves, windows and trees. And indeed I am one of those sad people who loves to go out in the car in the evening to nose at people's houses, see their decorations, act appalled at the OTT-ness, the tackiness of some houses full of dangly bits from ceilings, walls festooned with garlands, trees weighed down with baubles, every available surface covered by nativity scenes, snow globes, figurines and so on. Their gardens too, often full of lit-up reindeer, Santas, elves and snowmen.
Then we sigh with delight at the classiness of the 'less is more' brigade, with just a one-colour themed tree on display in a window, a simple wreath on the door, a few lights around a tree in the garden perhaps. We just string lights along a hedge dividing the garden in two, around a couple of holly trees and along the eaves of the summerhouse. Sometimes I make a ball of lights, by fastening together two wire hanging baskets, stuffing it with greenery from the garden, nicking bits of cut-off Christmas trees from the local garden centre, those bits they're not going to make into wreaths and charge a fiver for, and then fill it with fairy lights. I hang it by the front porch where it gets many an admiring glance, and it's the only one on the street. This year it will be a simple row of lights around the inner front door, and a country style wreath, which against the cheery red door looks very pretty and well... Christmassy!