We made mince pies yesterday. A bit early for Christmas: but I am greedy, and the boy likes the rolling out/cutting bits, and it was raining. The plan was to freeze them and take them to my parents' for the big family Christmas, but we seem to have accidentally eaten most of them.
The family rule is that whichever of my mother/my sister/me gets away with not hosting Christmas contributes something towards it: I used to do a ruinously expensive sprint round Borough Market. But three years ago I was pregnant, sugar-crazed, and nesting, so I made some mince pies.
I wouldn't normally attempt the voodoo that is pastry, but for once it worked: must've been either the hormones, or this Delia Smith recipe. On a high, I hosted the whole bloody Christmas the next year (I was on maternity leave: seemed like a good idea), and made everything by hand according to St Delia.
By last Christmas, I was so busy I didn't have time to breathe: I should just have bought sodding mince pies. But I didn't want to. Not in a I-Don't-Know-How-She-Does-It way (Allison Pearson's book opens with a working mother bashing shop-bought mince pies around to make them look homemade, so other parents don't judge her): my family are very laidback and couldn't have cared less.
It was just a stubborn refusal to accept that I didn't live a life that allowed for leisurely pastrymaking. I'm not very creative, but I like occasionally making things, and that's not a side I could indulge at work: it was important to me still to do stuff like this at home.
So I ended up making them at about 3am one night, using hastily defrosted shop pastry because I was too bloody tired to make my own, and they were genuinely vile. The dog backed away sneezing. My nephew made surprisingly realistic barfing noises. I ended up making a load more mince pies, properly, in my mum's kitchen.
This year, it's back to Delia. I did it just after finishing a column on David Cameron for tomorrow's New Statesman so it was a perfect antidote. By the end I felt I'd had a taste of my old political life, but also a bit of what was always missing from it.
One problem: there's a reason Delia is not assisted on TV by a floury small boy demanding to "squish it all up". Featherlight, they ain't.
So this is not just a tribute to Her Royal Delianess (whose new Christmas series starts tonight on the BBC). It's really about lowering my family's expectations this year. Shopbought ones would probably have been nicer.....