I picked the first young leaves of basil for tomato and olive oil pizzas. We shared a spinach pie that an elderly neighbour had sent over. And my homemade pasties went down a treat, if I say so myself. But the culinary highlight of the evening was indisputably the panforte – dense, oh-so-chocolaty, and packed with crunchy macadamias. Bliss.
The next day, I put a few pieces aside to take to lunch with my parents-in-law. Half way there, I realised that I’d left my sweet package on the kitchen bench. Clearly I didn’t really want to share.
When we arrived at their home, my mother-in-law reflected on her own experience of Christmas gifting in Malta in the 1950s and 60s. She reported that they always gave food or wine– usually things they had made themselves. My parents did the same in their native Greece. How they would have enjoyed the lovely panforte after the traditional 40-day Christmas fast.
A bit of fasting wouldn’t go astray during this month of excess. But when there’s a half-eaten panforte sitting in the fridge, what's a girl supposed to do?
I ate it, day in, day out, until it was all gone of course.
Each time I ate a piece, I went into a chocolate-induced reverie, reflecting that if we spent more time cooking rather than shopping at Christmas, and gave lovingly home-made food instead of other ‘stuff’, a lot of Christmas ills could be avoided. Think credit card debt, shopping centre rage, waste, and post-Christmas culling stress to name a few – though I’m the first to admit weight gain is still a problem.
Segue to some sobering facts: The number of Australians who say they were happy with the presents they received this Christmas - 37%; Number of unwanted gifts received - 22 million; Estimated value - $685 million.*
Less stuff. More panforte. They’re my words of wisdom for the season. Happy giving!
Here's the recipe my generous friend used for her Wise Panforte.
*From J. S. Croucher, Number Crunch, 2006.