I like Christmas food: Roast poultry, glazed ham, buttery, minty new potatoes, freshly picked green peas and sweet tomatoes, trifle doused in a dryish sherry, squishy raspberries just beginning to ooze their tart red juice, pillowy pavlova and whipped cream.
These dishes are true comfort food, delicious, extravagant, richly flavoured, and at the same time, so familiar.
But Boxing Day is where Christmas food really comes into its own, it's the gift that keeps on giving.
Leftovers mean that most households can forget about food planning or preparation for at least a few days and weary cooks can put their feet up. Bliss!
The picnic season comes hard on the heels of Christmas.
I like picnic food too. It's easy to plan and prepare because of the constraints of portability and the fact that it will be consumed al fresco and probably, because it's Nelson, in the presence of sand.
Ideally, picnic food should be tasty, filling enough to allow body surfing in the waves and beach cricket on the sand at, for example, Rabbit Island, and able to be eaten without a plate or cutlery.
That ham croissant should stay in one piece in dad's hand as he sprints along the beach to rescue little Jasmine's Christmas lilo as it takes off on the brisk afternoon sea breeze that's also a Nelson tradition.
I still make variations of the picnic food my mother made to sustain the family at the district's annual tennis tournament held over two days at French Pass and at Owhai Bay in Greville Harbour, D'Urville Island, every January.
The whole district played tennis, most farms had grass or asphalt courts and the contest was hard fought.
Most mainland and island locals and their visitors attended the tournament to socialise, picnic and watch their family's tennis champions fight it out on the sun-drenched court.
Younger children went swimming in the sea under the rotating supervision of mothers, and teenagers jostled and flirted under the shady trees of Woodman's sloping lawns at Owhai Bay and on the hillside overlooking the Webber's tennis court at French Pass where lines of sheep tracks made for conveniently sized if erratically positioned grandstand seating.
Retired players - not that there were many; I remember Wallace Webber wielding his racquet with considerable style and verve in doubles matches when he was quite well on in years - took the seats just outside the high netting wire fence.
Come lunchtime, blankets or tarpaulins were spread out and families gathered for a picnic spread that for us usually included a large bacon and egg or mince pie, sandwiches of delicious, fat-rimmed slices of cold leg or shoulder of mutton, spread with a spicy tomato sauce made every year from my grandfather's recipe, and an enamel bowl of hard boiled eggs and big crisp lettuce leaves from dad's garden with a dollop of thick condensed milk salad dressing.
Generous slices of boiled fruit cake and jellies, set in a cup with fruit salad or chunks of pineapple, melting in the heat despite my mother's best efforts to insulate them with our swimming towels, followed.
We children drank fruit cordial, our holiday treat, and the grown-ups downed copious quantities of thermos tea.
Afternoon tea was always served by the hostess in her cool kitchen and the DB beer in tall brown bottles came out at the end of the day's games on the wide, shady verandahs of the hosts' home, while we children lolled about on the lawn, exhausted by swimming, climbing novel and unfamiliar trees, exploring the woolshed and garden, spying on courting couples round the cliffs and, at French Pass, pestering our parents for a shilling to spend at Roy Webber's shop when he opened it for half an hour to service the campers on the "flat".
My mother's picnic mince pie is a classic that has become a family favourite.
Much more impressive than its ingredients suggest, the results of a quite simple process never fail to please.
Mum made her own pastry, rolling it out into a rough rectangle and folding half over the filling, but I use three ready rolled sheets of puff or savoury short pastry.
Use one and a half sheets to make a flat rectangle placed on an oven tray lined with baking paper.
Chop up an onion and soften it in some butter.
Add the onion to about 500gms of mince, three quarters of a cup of rolled oats, a teaspoon of beef stock dissolved in a quarter of a cup of boiling water, an egg, a large dollop of tomato sauce or relish and a good grind of pepper and salt and combine thoroughly.
Leftover vegetables are a good addition and you can replace the rolled oats with a grated large potato.
Spread the mince mixture on to the pastry leaving about a thumb width round the edge.
Dampen the pastry ‘fringe' and top with the remaining one and a half sheets.
Press the edges together with a fork; cut a couple of slits in the top and brush the whole pie with beaten egg.
Bake in a 200 C oven for about 25 - 30 minutes.
Eat hot, warm or cold with more tomato sauce - perfect for a New Year's Day picnic under the glorious Nelson sun. Cheers!
- © Fairfax NZ News