Mincemeat is one of those terms which the British fail to realize is not only incomprehensible to a vast majority of their fellow humans but also untranslatable. All those who volunteered were the informed, in that they knew they were coming to make something sweet and festive and not to mince meat for some unspecified reason.
On Monday November 2 a cheerful work party of 10 arrived at our family’s large chalet in Bossy bearing odd shaped parcels containing various objects ranging from franked whisky bottles (was it a vital ingredient or merely to revive the faint hearted?) to empty jam jars, from packets of suet (another British peculiarity based on a banned product in Switzerland – rightly in my humble opinion – which managed to enter the country by an ingenious secret network of suitcases during the preceding weeks) to antique mincing machines. It proved to be an entirely feminine affair but the men were not left out. Some had heroically eaten quantities of jam to liberate yet more jars than had been mustered and the final professional touch to all our labours was added with labels kindly designed and produced by an enthusiastic husband.
As always good ideas have their setbacks. For instance, no-one it transpired was really certain how to produce vast quantities of mincemeat – a rather fundamental requirement for the success of the afternoon. With true Holy Trinity goodwill and efficiency aided by serious scientific experimentation and the organizing abilities of the chaplain’s wife the kitchen and the dining room were rapidly transformed into an effective and humming production line complete with weighing, mixing, quality control and bottling departments. In true Trade Union tradition a tea lady was appointed to ensure compulsory tea breaks for the workers.
By the end of the session over 65lb had been produced. All agreed that solo mincemeat making would have been tedious, time consuming and no fun at all. It is definitely a social affair.
This article first appeared in the Holy Trinity Newsletter Geneva no.162, December 1987.
Until the advent of the coronavirus this year, communal mincemeat making has been a traditional Holy Trinity activity ever since this time in spite of the availability of commercial brands in Swiss shops for many years.
An amusing incident occurred some years later by which time its production had been transferred from my house to the Church Hall with new shop stewards. I ventured to go and help out. A member of the team informed me that I was not doing things correctly. How I smiled – inwardly of course!