Our mothers christmas mince pies were the stuff that legends are made of, legends and patio bases actually.
I’m not saying that they were completely inedible, a person would always manage to eat one just to be polite, it was very difficult to find anyone who’d be prepared to go on to devour a second one though.
They always looked fine sitting there on the specially reinforced plate, a tiered collection of small pastry based sweet Christmas offerings, each with a little pastry lid with the sweet mincemeat bubbling through the edge of the rim, pastry and a jar of mincemeat, what could possibly go wrong ?
The pastry could go wrong for starters.
My mother made her own pastry, I suspect that she made it from wet MDF, probably soaking the board for several days out in the garden before cutting it into rounds and bashing it into the tart mould after which a dollop of mincemeat would be poured and a lid placed on top, then cooked for several days in a hyper-heated oven until completely ruined – don’t write this recipe down, I warn you, you won’t like it.
When removed from the oven and served up to her unsuspecting family at Christmas the lids of the mince pies served to contain the super-heated mincemeat for several days, you could hear it bubbling away in there for days after they had been removed from the oven.
Eventually the rim of mincemeat that had bubbled through the lid would set into an inedible ring of dark treacle like substance and you knew at that point that it was probably safe to have a go at one – wrong every time, for crunching through the lid you’d hit upon the still molten-lava-like filling which would remove several layers of skin from your tongue before the pain even started to kick in.
We’d have a go, heroes we were, me, Ned and our dad, we’d have a go, one each, it was like a dare, we’d sit and stare at each other, psych each other up, then snatch one off the plate and throw it in your mouth before the moment passed, chew for ever, chew until it felt like it wasn’t Christmas anymore, chew until you were thinking that it must at least be Easter by now, and swallow, and you knew that that mince pie would never be digested, would not offer your body any nutritional value whatsoever, only served as chewing practice, we all have our mothers mince pies to thank for our lantern jaws.
Eventually and after several forlorn days of sitting around on a plate going nowhere our mothers mince pies would be thrown out onto the front lawn for the birds to enjoy and those birds who had not previously eaten from our front lawn would arrive with shrill cries of exuberance at having found such a feast on someones front lawn and without the hinderance of any other other birds too who all seemed to be still sitting in trees observing and sniggering behind their wings.
These new birds to our district would peck and peck away at our mothers mince pie cases without leaving even a scratch mark on them but eventually after several days rain had fallen on them they would at last strike through the lid to find the still lava-hot mincemeat inside and as the rain dripped inside the casing you could hear the hissing for streets around in the same manner as when an icelandic lava flow meets the sea and in the same style those birds would soon find that having eaten the mince feast the contents of their stomachs would set solid inside and disable them from flying for several days, it was then that all the local birds who had suffered similar fates in the past would emerge from their hiding places to mock and laugh heartily at the newcomers and recount to them of how it had taken them months of retraining to learn how to fly again after eating just one of our mothers mince pies.