Two weeks before Christmas, your nephew’s wife calls for a recipe.
“Christmas isn’t Christmas without your trifle, Aunty Pauline!” she says. You agree.
It’s your mother’s recipe. You make it faithfully each year, remembering her hands moving swiftly, the smell of her kitchen. You recall marvelling at how the cake, custard and gelatine kept obediently to their separate layers.
Your grown children remain stubbornly disinterested, and you’d worried who would carry this tradition. But this girl from another culture, another tradition, has called you. Heart filled, you recite;
Use day old sponge cake, cut into squares. Spread jam over each one. Any flavour, but I like strawberry.
Dip each jammy square quickly into sherry. Don’t let it fall in, or rest too long. It’ll soak up too much sherry, and everyone’ll get drunk on dessert.
You can substitute 100% orange juice — for the kids and the wowsers.
Make up some custard with egg, milk, sugar. Thicken it with custard powder.
Line the base of your glass dish with the sponge squares, jam side up. Pour the custard over the top. Put this in the fridge to cool. That’s very important. You have to make sure it’s cool before you add the jelly or the gelatine’ll melt.
Use Port Wine jelly (or orange, for the kids’ version). Don’t buy the cheap stuff, you’ll taste the difference. Make it up, and let it set in a separate bowl.
When everything’s good and cold, when the jelly’s set, crumble it and fork it on top of the custard. Don’t mix it through. Separate layers are more festive.
“Give my love to my nephew,” you say, keeping your voice chipper, don’t let the loneliness interject. “Tell him to call me once in a while.”
You put down the phone, and pick up your grandmother’s bible. That too, you’ll pass on to your nephew’s wife.