Tell Me A Story: A Favorite Recipe and Memories of a Dear Friend

Christmas Memories buttonMy Christmas Memory in this second week of Advent involves delicious food, a dear friend and wonderful memories of a Christmas spent in England.

Some 30 years ago, pregnant with my first child, my husband and I decided to spend Christmas with my friend and her husband in Southampton, England. Valerie and I had been pen pals for nearly 20 years by then and we had enjoyed their visits to the U.S., as well as a trip to England we had made a few years earlier.

Christopher and Valerie Surrey, with Stonehenge in the background

Christopher and Valerie Surrey, with Stonehenge in the background

We’d done quite a bit of sight-seeing on our first trip to England, so this one was mostly focused on our friends, their family and the Christmas season. It was a beautiful time of long walks in their neighborhood, drives into the Black Forest, visits to the seashore, evenings before the fire and great meals around their dining table.

The meal I remember most was on Christmas Day. Vallie (as everyone called her) and her husband, Christopher, were determined to give us a traditional British feast. Both their parents were joining us for the day.

We began preparations the day before and by noon on Christmas Day, the table was laden with a roast turkey, prawns (Vallie’s favorite shrimp), Yorkshire pudding, many beautiful vegetable dishes and English Trifle. The table was set for a feast, with wine goblets, flowers, candles and, at each place setting, “crackers” — festively wrapped tubes of paper holding little treasures, such as a bookmark or tiny toy, and paper hats and whistles. We had learned that the stodgy Brits like nothing more than a good laugh, so we joined in popping our “crackers” before donning our hats to eat.

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Our Christmas dinner table, Southampton, England, circa 1983

We didn’t realize this would be our last visit to England, though they returned to America several times. In a few short years, Vallie would begin a battle with melanoma. She fought hard, but the cancer took her life when she was barely 40 — a┬ábeautiful, well-loved, gracious woman whose life ended too soon.

I still prepare Vallie’s version of Trifle for special family events, and every time I do, memories of our Christmas in England come flooding back. I’d like to share her recipe with you. Enjoy.



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