Saturday, December 17, 2016

Sepia Saturday #348. Christmas Dinner 1959

The prompt this week is entitled "Christmas Dinner: The Royal Library, Denmark." I have to presume this is the royal family enjoying Christmas dinner. I notice they have a huge platter of food, one bottle of wine and eight people.
Christmas 1959
We thought much differently about our Christmas repast. As you can see, we have four bottles on the table: two whiskey bottles and two wine bottles—this being considered barely sufficient for seven people, four of whom were light drinkers. No food is visible. 

Our holiday dinners were usually larger gatherings than the one in this photo, Christmas 1959.  My grandparents Hector and Pulcherie are on the left, my sister Eilleen and my brother-in-law Jim are at the back and my mom and me are sitting side by side. My father took the photo. The good lace tablecloth is spread and the best china was set in place. This was very important. My mother always judged a restaurant and a home by whether there was a tablecloth or not. And then, by what kind of tablecloth, lace being the best of the best. If we consumed all that alcohol, I doubt anyone would have given much thought to my mother's tablecloth. 

I've just finished writing about my grandfather Paul-Hector aka Onesime Fortier and his deafness. Much to my surprise, I see in this photo that he is wearing one hearing aid in his left ear. I'm guessing the right ear was stone-deaf* and the audiologist attempted to get him some hearing in the left one. I'm stone-deaf in my left ear now and have great sympathy, looking back, for my grandfather. At the time of this photo however, I would have yelled at him a few times in English, which he barely understood, in an attempt to converse. He would have replied in French that he couldn't hear anything, after which our communication would consist of smiles back and forth. Now I do that very same, nod, and murmur. 

My mom and Eilleen are wearing the same beautiful deep blue color. Mom may have made both dresses out of the same fabric. 

Eilleen looked vaguely like Elizabeth Taylor at this time of her life
and Jim resembled Desi Arnaz 


Liz and Desi...a rare photo

Through the door behind me was our kitchen. It was smaller than my current bathroom and had about two feet of counter space. Mom would have prepared a complete turkey dinner in there. Everything was served warm too, including the plates! And she had one oven. In those days, nobody brought anything to contribute to the meal. The hostess was expected to provide everything—at least that's the way it was done in my family. 

Last but not least, there would be the dreaded Christmas cake after the meal. Mom loved that cake and would start making it several weeks ahead, to assure that every molecule was thoroughly soaked with brandy before the big day. My dad liked the cake too, probably because of the brandy. 

We started celebrating Christmas by going to midnight mass on the 24th and to my paternal grandmother's afterward for cookies and brandy. Christmas day there was a lot of visiting of neighbors and friends followed by eating the big dinner and drinking, of course. Boxing day was more of the same all day and the celebration of my parent's anniversary in the evening. How did we do it???

*Stone-deaf is no longer acceptable. The correct term to use is profoundly deaf, which like many PC improved words, lacks oomph for me. Even though my audiologist cringes and looks at me like I'm Archie Bunker, I continue to inquire after testing if I'm still stone-deaf? or has a miracle occurred? 


  1. Lovely happy Christmas memories to look back on.

  2. Lovely happy Christmas memories to look back on.

  3. Looking back, looking back...we all have those dinner memories. Love the tablecloth -- my grandmother had a lace one, too; she used to spread it over a dark green one...the green came through the lace. It was VERY Christmassy!

  4. My mother always used a tablecloth, even if just gor a picnic, and my mother-in-law has given me a couple of her beautiful white damask ones which I'd be afraid to use!

  5. What was Desi doing with Liz?
    I loved reading about your family, as usual!

  6. Your sister, Eilleen's likeness to Elizabeth Taylor is rather remarkable in that photo. I remember preparing a complete turkey dinner for Christmas one year when we lived in a little 4-room cabin with a very small kitchen and an oven that didn't work! The turkey was done in an electric roasting pan my Grandmother gave me when she found out my oven wasn't working. It came out pasty white - never browning, but it was fully cooked and juicy and tender. I baked cakes in that thing, too. And speaking of cakes, I assume the Christmas cake you are talking about was a fruit cake? My Grandmother made a wicked fruit cake every Christmas - starting months in advance with mostly dried fruit & brandy with only a smidgeon of 'cake' and every so often she'd wrap and rewrap it with rum-soaked cheesecloth. It was a fruit cake to die for!!!