Sunday, 29 December 2013
Christmas Posh Nosh
Phew, another Christmas is over. And now that it is, I can relax and reflect back on the day of festivity without feeling flustered.
It was the first Christmas in our new abode. Eleanor was adamant that everybody come to us.
‘This house is a clean canvass. It needs to gather memories. And what better way to start than by having the entire family here for Christmas dinner?’
Amen to that. Except we’d downsized and I was a bit twitchy about how we’d fit everybody around the dining table.
‘Why don’t you come to me?’ suggested my sister during a phone call. ‘My dining table extends. Also, I’d like to host Christmas for once.’
‘But Eleanor is insisting everybody comes here. It’s important to her,’ I hissed into the mouthpiece.
‘I’ve lived in my house for eight years and nobody has ever come to me for Christmas Day,’ said my sister, sounding peeved. ‘Boxing Day, yes, but not Christmas Day. I think you should assert yourself as a parent and tell Eleanor she’s going to do as she’s told and everybody is coming to me.’
‘Are you mad?’ I gripped the handset. ‘She’s a teenager. You try going head to head with a sixteen year old.’
You see! Arguments already, and the big day hadn’t even started.
‘Oh, for heaven’s sake,’ my sister snapped. ‘Okay, we’ll come to you. What are you cooking?’
‘What do you mean what am I cooking? Turkey, obviously, for the meat eaters.’
‘Yes, yes, yes, what I mean is, where are you buying the turkey?’
Ah! I had an idea what direction this conversation might be going in.
‘Asda,’ I whispered.
‘What? I can’t hear you! Please don’t tell me you’re buying it from a supermarket. I really can’t face sitting down to a flavourless piece of meat that’s spent several days in a foil tray on a refrigerated shelf.’
‘What’s wrong with–?’
‘I’ll buy the turkey,’ my sister interrupted. It’s a shame she never had children. They’d have been incredibly obedient. Perhaps she could have Eleanor for a while? Sort her out for me.
‘There’s a farm down the road which sells free range turkeys that have been raised with love and slaughtered humanely. Eighty-five quid, but worth every penny. Now, what about veg?’
‘Well, I thought sprouts, carrots, roast potatoes and–’
‘That’s not what I mean, Debbie. Will your vegetables be organic?’
I gulped. And then decided to take a leaf out of my sister’s book and assert myself. ‘No. They’ll be bought from Asda and covered in pesticides.’
A sigh of annoyance whistled down the handset. ‘I’ll buy the veg from the farm shop. It’s organic and absolutely beautiful.’
I resisted the urge to ask if the carrots and swede had been plucked from the soil with love and placed in paper rather than polythene bags.
‘What size is your new oven?’ my sister asked.
‘Well, you know, it’s just a regular sort of size.’ I wandered over to the oven and peered within its depths. We’d yet to bond as such.
‘Now you see if you asserted yourself to that daughter of yours and came to me for Christmas Day, it would be so much easier. My cooking range has three ovens and five gas rings.’ Three ovens? I had enough trouble dealing with the one. I heard her sigh into the phone. ‘I’ll cook the turkey here and then wrap it in foil and towels and bring it over in a big bag.’
‘Okay,’ I said.
‘You do the roast potatoes and parsnips, and I’ll bring the rest of the veg.’
‘Okay,’ I said again. That would be easy-peasy. Aunt Bessie’s did a cracking range of tatties and honey parsnips. Ooh, and Yorkshires too.
‘And no Aunt Bessie’s crap,’ my sister cut across my thoughts, ‘I don’t eat factory prepared food, and neither should you.’
And so it was on Christmas Day that I found myself peeling a mountain of parsnips and potatoes, manhandling a vast vat of water for par-boiling, heating up oil in my immaculate oven and trying not to cry as it spat everywhere, and getting incredibly red in the face as I alternated between steam from the hob and furnace-like blasts from the oven. On the worktop, in a slow cooker, was a real Christmas pudding. I couldn’t help but weep at the hours and hours of cooking it required compared to a Tesco’s Luxury jobbie which needed only three minutes in the microwave.
When my sister arrived she dragged into the hallway what can only be described as a body bag.
‘The turkey is in here,’ she nodded.
I shuddered and crossed myself. One of the many reasons I was a vegetarian. My brother-in-law followed my sister into the hallway.
‘I was up at seven o’clock this morning,’ he said, ‘and outside in the garden with a torch picking herbs to stuff this with.’
More fool him.
My sister strode into the kitchen. I scuttled after her. ‘The Christmas pudding is coming along, and the roast potatoes are perfect,’ I assured, ‘as are the roast parsnips.’
‘And the Yorkshires?’
‘Sorry, I ran out of time,’ I lied. I rummaged in the fridge and produced – defiantly it has to be said – a bag of Aunt Bessie’s finest battered puddings. My sister rolled her eyes.
‘Right. Let’s get this veg on.’ She plonked Tupperware containers onto my worktops. There were six different varieties of peeled vegetables. ‘Where are your saucepans?’
‘In the cupboard to your left.’
She bent down. ‘There’s only one saucepan in here.’
‘Well I didn’t know you were going to bring so much veg!’
‘How do you manage to cook anything, Debbie, with one saucepan? It’s just as well I brought my steamer along. Now pay attention,’ she waggled her finger at me, ‘watch and learn.’
In no time at all a tottering pagoda of stainless steel was erected on one of the hobs and bubbling away. Delicious smells abounded, apart from the sprouts which, it has to be said, smelt a bit farty.
But for all my sister’s bossiness, she turned out a cracking Christmas dinner. And Eleanor had her wish that memories have now been made in our new house. Not to mention my oven, which needs a professional clean. Which reminds me. Here is a tried and tested recipe on how to cook a turkey:
Step 1: Go buy a turkey
Step 2: Take a drink of whiskey
Step 3: Put turkey in the oven
Step 4: Take another two drinks of whiskey
Step 5: Set the degree at 375 ovens
Step 6: Take three more whiskeys of drink
Step 7: Turn oven the on
Step 8: Take four whisks of drinkey
Step 9: Turk the bastey
Step 10: Whiskey another bottle of get
Step 11: Stick a turkey in the thermometer
Step 12: Glass yourself another pour of whiskey
Step 13: Bake the whiskey for four hours
Step 14: Take the oven out of the turkey
Step 15: Floor the turkey up off the pick
Step 16: Turk the carvey
Step 17: Get yourself another scottle of botch
Step 18: Tet the sable
Step 19: Pour yourself a glass of turkey
Step 20: Bless the saying, pass and eat out