Henley, UK

  • Date
  • 25 December 1999

My Mother, Father and Jim’s parents arrived in Henley-on-Thames around 8 a.m. this morning and this was the best gift I’ve received in ages. After a light breakfast with my parents I sent them off for naps in preparation for our Christmas dinner.

At 2:30 p.m. my family and Jim’s sat down in the main dining room of The Red Lion Hotel for Christmas dinner. This was the first meal all of us would enjoy together. The special day was filled with catch-up banter, family folklore and future plans. I had gift-filled stockings for everyone and we all took turns ‘being in the spotlight’ and opening gifts during the beginning of the meal.

The menu included gravadlox (salmon) or winter fruit, consommé, turkey or sole, Christmas pudding or almond tart, cheese and handmade chocolates. Everyone except me opted for the winter fruit but the salmon was delicious – fresh and plentiful. The consommé had tiny pasta spirals floating in the broth, which tasted like rich au jus for a roast beef sandwich. Jim and his Mother ate the sole but my parents, Mr. Rogers and I ate the traditional turkey, stuffing and cranberry chutney. The turkey was tender but the stuffing didn’t quite have the seasoning or kick my Grandmother used to include. Mr. Rogers decided on the almond tart for dessert but everyone else ate the Christmas pudding of a minced pie and cream (the English call desserts ‘puddings’). Then everyone enjoyed a serving of Stilton, the absolute best English cheese available. (You’ll only like Stilton if you adore very strong cheese.) By the time the handmade chocolates and coffee arrived, most of us were filled to the brim except Mrs. Rogers who always saves room for sweets!

Certainly the meal together will be long remembered. Great food, perfect setting, wonderful conversation, loving people and the very special occasion of the day.