Where did we leave off? Ah yes, We were leaving London, and making our way up to Tom’s mums house. It was a bit of a drive, three hours at least. It was dark when we finally made our way up to the countryside of Halifax, carving through the windy roads, lined with ancient stone walls.
Once we’d ventured out of the London suburbs, I began to notice that all of the homes were made of stone. Built to last. I wondered how long they’d been standing. Tom’s family in Potten End had been to comfortable and warm, but I was still nervous to meet his mother. Mainly because I’d noticed that Tom has super proper etiquette while dining, something that I greatly lack. I know how to make food look pretty, not how to look pretty while eating it.
His house is attached to an old school house, formerly the headmasters quarters and newly renovated. We were instantly greeted by their dog, Teddy (Oh! Teddy!) a goofy, curly cockapoo as soon as we entered the threshold. I struggled with my lace up Doc Martins, the only shoes I decided to take with me. These shoes would grow to be the bane of my existence during this trip. Tom’s mother Ann, and her fiancé Clive were extremely welcoming, greeting me with warm, genuine hugs. Clive’s mother, Nanny Sue, a snappy old bird was in the kitchen to greet me as well. We had just enough time to drop our stuff off upstairs before being ushered off to the pub. Oh, how exciting! A real, authentic English Pub!
Clive was incredibly informative as we made our way to the pub (and anywhere really) giving me the low down of when everything was built, and their progression through the ages. When we got there, it was named ever so cleverly, “The Pub.” We made our way in and had our first pints of the night. I went with a Black Current Stout. It was delicious, but I couldn’t have more than one. I was slightly buzzed after one pint and began to feel self conscious about acting sloppy in front of Tom’s family.
It was Christmas Eve, so Ann was creating a feast for everyone, and Clive was to pick up some chips from the Chippy on our way back home. For dinner we had (they had) ham, chips, eggs, baked beans, bread, and drunken fruit cake. Ann had prepared for me a grilled haloumi salad. I had that and the beans. You know how I feel about beans, so I was in heaven. But still cautious, trying to eat as carefully as possible, standing on ceremony.
The next day was Christmas morning. We got up bright and early to go downstairs to the tree, and everyone sat patiently as the boys divided up the presents into organized piles. I was dumbfounded by this. Christmas morning was always a free for all in my house. It was part of the fun! Digging through the presents, finding what is yours, passing off what wasn’t intended for you. But not here. I was astounded at my present pile. Not only that, but I actually liked the gifts that I received! They seemed to have captured my personality better than members of my own family had. And best of all, I was bestowed with a bounty of fuzzy socks. How could I not be pleased? For breakfast we ate toast with a varieties of spreads, and I discovered my love for Marmite. Something that I had never thought possible. You just can’t knock it until you try it.
We were told not to enter the kitchen until dinner was ready (I can understand that mentality), so naturally we went off to the pub again to pass the time. When we returned, Tom’s sister Rachel along with her husband and children had arrived. They were a bit more rowdy than the rest of Tom’s family which I was very thankful for. My own family is extremely rowdy, so I found a bit of comfort in the familiarity. I was grilled for being a vegetarian, something that is clearly very uncommon in this family (as well as mine, so I’m used to it). And finally we sat down for dinner. Ann had prepared a special vegetarian dish for me, rice stuffed peppers. There was also braised cabbage, Yorkshire pudding (which is like a pop-over), roasted carrots and parsnips, peas and brussel sprouts. I made out pretty well considering they didn’t know what to do with me and my plantbased diet.
We each had poppers at our seat, with a small gift and a crown inside. We all wore our crowns as we ate and drank. I stuck to the Persecco because I thought that I had a red wine allergy. (As it turns out it was a cat allergy, agitated by alcohol and caffeine.) Once we started to dig into the desserts, we dug into the party poppers as well. There was an ambush, I was covered in streamers. I took this as a sign of affection and acceptance.
The next day was Boxing Day. We don’t have this in America, obviously. So I was incredibly unfamiliar. But I’d had my eye on Ann’s AGA, an old style oven, and I NEEDED to cook on it. It’s always on, and you can’t adjust the heat. Some parts are hotter than others, and you need to rotate and work with the variety of temperatures on the AGA to cook your food to perfection. I was awestruck. If they weren’t $20k I would get one for myself.
I decided that I wanted to make my famous Roasted Jalapeno Green Bean Casserole to share with the family, an American tradition. So Ann and I composed another feast. I just made the casserole, she made everything else. The casserole went over well, thankfully. Could you imagine if his mother hated my cooking? That would be the end of it 😉
Tom was eager to introduce to me to this best mate, James. So the next day we (attempted) to get up early and head over to York. I fell in love with this city immediately. In my opinion, it had much more character than London. But we had James as our tour guide to show us around, and that made all of the difference. First he showed us the ancient wall of York, that once guarded the city. It was enchanting to submerge ourselves into the history, and walk the foot paths of long ago. We made a pit stop at a chip shop to get some cheesy chips with curry sauce (score!) As we made our way through the cobblestone streets I was on edge, afraid someone would knock them out of my hands, so I gobbled them down feverishly. Naturally, the end of our tour ended at the pub with a multitude of scotch with ginger beer.
The following day, we set off for a hike through the Moors. Tom’s parents took us on a tour throughout Halifax, ever so informative as always. I was astounded by the rolling hills and captivating beauty. It was a gorgeous clear day. Although cold and windy as hell. We parked the car and set off on our expedition through the Moors, which is basically vast grassy landscape. Our destination: no other than the pub. I felt as if I’d transcended back in time. Trudging through the mud, facing the harsh weather conditions, to grab a pint at the pub.
We decided to pack it in, and take it easy for the rest of the night. We had to get up bright and early in the morning. It was almost the New Year, and we were headed to Amserdam!