* 'Frank innocence and mirth' is how a gypsy in one of Canadian novelist Robertson Davies' books hears 'frankincense and myrrh', a creative mishearing I remembered while listening to the local ABC radio's Saturday Quiz in the car the other day (Saturday, in fact; fancy) when one of the questions was 'What were the gifts the Three Wise Men brought to the manger?'
The first person who was asked this question got it right, but while everyone knows what gold is, no definition of either frankincense or myrrh was forthcoming. FYI, both are resins obtained from trees native to Africa and/or the Middle East, used in incense, aromatherapy and perfumes.
* The Robertson Davies gypsy mishearing is a version of the mondegreen. There are a number of well-known Christmas-carol and Christmas-song mondegreens, among which my favourite is 'Olive, the other reindeer, used to laugh and call him names'. Others include 'Holy imbecile, tender and mild', and 'Frosty the Snowman / is a ferret elf, I say'.
But the other day, also on local ABC radio, I heard a new one; a woman rang in to say she'd been singing carols to her granddaughter, who kept saying 'Sing the one about the zebra, Granny, sing the one about the zebra.' After much discussion, the penny finally dropped: she was talking about Silent Night. 'Christ the zebra is boooo---ooorn, Christ the zebra is born!'
* Memo to this year's wrapping paper manufacturers: pink, blue and lavender are not Christmas colours. Christmas colours are red, white, silver, green and gold. Sheesh.
* 'Tis the season of casually-employed checkout chaps, who were either not trained or not listening while they were trained, and who therefore put the Harpic in with the bread, and then put the raspberries at the bottom of a bag containing several 400 gram tins.
Even without training, you'd think some sort of native intelligence would kick in at some point. But then, if I were more organised and less overworked, I would never have been buying either raspberries or bread at the supermarket in the first place.
*Those inexplicable people who are not berry fanciers might like this variation on the theme of Christmas trifle. I haven't tried this yet, so don't blame me if it doesn't work, but I do plan at some point to try a sort of Trifle Tropicana variation (NB no pineapple or coconut, so if the idea of either was putting you off, do read on) on this recipe, thus:
BOWL: a pretty, transparent bowl with a wide bottom is best for trifle.
GROUND FLOOR: A layer of Savoyardi (sponge finger) biscuits. Break and crumble a few in order to fill up all the spaces; you want a firm foundation of stodge. Slosh at least half a cup of good dessert wine (I favour Brown Brothers Orange Muscat and Flora) (hi there, Devil Drink) over the biscuit layer and let it sink in. If it doesn't look wet enough to you after ten minutes or so, put some more wine on it, but don't forget there's passionfruit pulp to come.
SECOND FLOOR: Mango, bananas and passionfruit in whatever quantities you fancy. I'd be inclined to go one, two and three of each respectively and then layer them, starting with banana and ending with passionfruit: cut up the mango into pieces about the size of a cherry, slice the bananas, scoop out and (if you're like me and a bit squicked out by the seeds, and yes I know they're part of the point of passionfruit) strain the passionfruit pulp. If you do plan to strain the pulp, maybe chuck in an extra passionfruit. Don't let the sliced bananas lie around uncovered for more than a few minutes or they will go brown and icky.
I don't recommment pineapple as it is chemically odd and might react badly with the custard. I suppose you could use custard apples, if you don't mind custard with more custard.
THIRD FLOOR: Um, custard. Enough to blanket (I believe the correct culinary term is 'mask') the fruit layer and give yourself a flattish surface to decorate. If you make it yourself with cream and egg yolks it'll be lovely. If turns out lumpy, just strain it. Otherwise, Paul's do a good ready-made cucky though it is a bit thick for trifle purposes. Bought 'pouring custard' is probably a bad idea for the opposite reason -- too runny. At this stage, let everything bed down together in the fridge for at least five or six hours and preferably overnight. Glad-wrap on the custard surface will stop it forming a skin.
FOURTH FLOOR: Decorate with whipped cream and little cocktail umbrellas, or plastic parrots, or whatever you think looks tropical.