December 28

Generosity abounds in Australia and we were the fine recipients of a heaping pile last Christmas Day. We’d been camping at Red Rock for the last week or so and mingled with our new neighbors whenever we could. And so they invited us to have Christmas dinner with them at their campsite. This would turn out to be a dinner like we’d never experienced before! Attending would be two of us, Sara and I, and eight of them, Tony and Lana, their three daughters, two grand kids, and son-in-law. We were thrilled to have something special to do for our own families were half way around the world. To help us span that great distance we only had to look at or hold their grandson for he was born on the same day last August that our granddaughter was!

Tony said the meal would start up around 2pm, but we left our chocolate concoction for safe keeping in our car, straddling a large ice bag inside a rubber bin, packed on top with towels and spare clothes to keep it cool, for it wouldn’t be needed for quite a while. We brought over our own plates and chairs and sat down to several rounds of oysters on the half-shell with fresh lemon and spices. While we were digging into the oysters, Ben was thinly slicing some jucy roast beef and marinating it in ginger and soy sauce. Served with crackers and a bit of red wine, it was superb. Throughout this part of the feast, everyone took turns holding the baby or spiriting little King Harry around on his new red tricycle!

Next on the menu was a platter-full of grilled prawns, butter, garlic and who knows what else! By my recollection, the plate passed around the table several times and over and through many stories and tall tales before it was finally picked clean. Those were the best prawns I’d ever had! I wasn’t keeping track of the time, but it had already been a magic while and I figured we were about done. But oh no, I couldn’t have been more wrong!

It was finally time to do some washup of the dishes and utensils in order to get ready for the next course. Can’t have dirty dishes tainting what was coming next. At least I could help do a bit of that by taking a large bucket to the camp laundry facility and toting back a load of hot water. There was more baby holding and more site seeing with Harry as he patrolled the larger campground on the tricycle. During the interlude Tony prepped scallops for the sauté pan perched on the barbeque. Those were worth waiting for and again the plate made many rounds of the table before it was licked clean. And by now its about dark, if you can believe a meal can go on that long!

After everyone had had their fill, and told snippets of their life story, out came a wonderful salad of broccoli-rab, feta, and other vegetables. This was served along side hunks of roasted potatoes and I thought for a bit that I might not be able to finish my main. More wine helped us pace through the meal and relax into our conversations. By now little Javi was put to bed and Harry was slowing down, finally! The head chef suggested that we do a plate and washup again and so we took breaks and helped out the best we could.

Then came our desert, which we must confess, we ordered from a bakery the day before. It was an Isle of Sky cake, dense, decadent, layers of chocolate and other confections. I went to the back of the car and unearthed it, and some white wine, from the rubber bin. It had not yet touched the melt water and was as pristine as it had been when we had picked it up for the bakery yesterday. I centered it on a new cutting board that I had made from a plank of forest oak that a local landowner had given me. Positioned round and round on the newly washed plates, topped with wheelbarrows of fresh fruit and smothered in different types of whipped cream it was truly amazing.

We took our time eating that desert and sipping the good wine. Obviously, there were too many good conversations to fit into one evening, but we tried. Finally, everyone felt tired and ready for bed. It was time to stack the dishes, put away the perishables, and trundle off to bed. By the time we walked back the twenty steps to our own camp, it was after 10pm. So indeed our Christmas meal spanned a magical eight hours, a record for me for sure. May we be so lucky as to have a meal like this again!


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