This year was the first time we cooked our own Christmas dinner… thanks hugely (sarcasm) to COVID-19 Tier 4 life, it was just the three of us this year (two fairly fully-functioning adults and a three year old). We are not a big roast family. We have never really cooked one. BUT we had planned to go the whole hog with Christmas. Full-on Christmas roast dinner with all the trimmings / sides that you could possibly imagine. Before I get into the nitty-gritty of it all, I would like to point out that whilst we aren’t Michelin starred chefs, both of us are able to cook, and a recipe does not really faze us. We are happy to try things out, give everything a go. I think this is an important point because…
… and let’s be transparent here. A Christmas dinner is different. VERY different.
And what I have discovered is that it’s not worth it.
A Christmas dinner requires patience like no other. Calmness like no other. Timing like no other.
Here are 10 things I have learnt from cooking our first Christmas dinner.`
- Number 1. You must not fall out with your comrade. However difficult it gets; however hot, steamy, tense and testy the nightmare; however desperately you want to just shout at the top of your lungs ‘OH F*CK THIS ANYWAY’, you must remain united as one. At no point whatsoever can you let your guard down. Do not let the food hear or see that you are scared. Very scared. Keep your voice steady, on an even level at all times. Even when you are saying ‘but we haven’t got a pan left to heat the BLOODY BREAD SAUCE’ – say it in a really positive sing-song way. Maybe even add a ‘darling’ and a little laugh at the end. Because as soon as that food hears the fear in your voice and senses that it’s close to breaking you, it’ll react. The pigs in blankets are the worst for this I have learnt. Those most precious and fragile of sides hear one quiver in your voice, one little fault, one break in your steady stream of positivity and the bacon unfurls from those sausages and you will be left with sad pasty naked little things with mini bacon ringlets on the side that you have to try to repair whilst mentally shouting ‘OH F*CK THIS ANYWAY’.
- Number 2. If Jamie Oliver encourages you to fry some sage leaves ‘until crispy’ in a pan to ‘sprinkle’ on top of your soup which merely just a STARTER in this mad charade, don’t. Honestly, it’s really not worth it. It’s a starter. No-one cares. It’s literally there to prevent in-fighting due to hunger whilst you try to juggle the drama in the kitchen. And if you do decide to crisp up those sage leaves, do not leave them alone in the pan for even one second. Even if your three year old daughter comes to the kitchen door, distraught that her father paused ‘Zog and the Flying Doctors’ so she could sit at the table and have a nice meal with her family, tears streaming down her face, DO NOT leave those sage leaves. Let her cry. Because if you do tend to your weepy three year old, that oil will burn, your kitchen will fill with smoke and you will be left with no choice but to open the kitchen window and allow the cool December Christmas air to fill the room, chilling the turkey joint your husband has so lovingly basted for the last hour and a half. And you’ll think to yourself: ‘OH F*CK THIS ANYWAY’.
- Number 3. Don’t worry about cooking anything that your aforementioned three year old can eat. She won’t. She’ll think the soup starter with your burnt sage leaves was her dinner, eat three spoons of it and spend the next hour sitting on the floor playing with her Paw Patrol cars whilst you try to convince and cajole her to join you at the table whilst secretly thinking ‘OH F*CK THIS ANYWAY’. Then, after you’ve finished your dinner she’ll ask for a slice of toast, some grapes and a Frube and you’ll think once more… ‘OH F*CK THIS ANYWAY’.
- Number 4. How the hell do you do it all in just one oven?
- Number 5. How the hell do you do it all on just one hob?
- Number 6. Everything tastes the same. Once you put everything in you mouth it all tastes the bloody same however long you slaved over it. Which is mightily disheartening and you’ll think to yourself ‘OH F*CK THIS ANYWAY’.
- Number 7. If you haven’t got 12 serving dishes, don’t even bother. Don’t start cooking. In fact, don’t even buy things to cook. I have now learnt always ALWAYS count your serving dishes before working out how many sides you can invite to the table. Eat only what you can serve. Otherwise you will be serving your creamed spinach and cranberry sauce from your three years old’s plastic brightly coloured bowls.
- Number 8. Same with serving spoons. If you can’t lift it onto your plate using an implement that can contain a normal sized serving of food and doesn’t have a farmyard animal on it, don’t even bother.
- Number 9. Tidying up is an absolute insanity. If you really think about this before you start, you won’t start and you won’t think approx. 4,385 times throughout the entire experience ‘OH F*CK THIS ANYWAY’ and everyone will just be happier. You’ll enjoy a delightful plate of beans on toast, splashing out on a grated cheese topping. The washing up will be non-existent, you won’t lose your wedding and engagement rings in a box of Heroes and you won’t go to bed feeling like there is turkey fat coming out of your eyeballs.
- Number 10. ‘OH F*CK THIS ANYWAY’