Saturday, 29 December 2012

December 29th - Great Expectations and the Christmas Wasteland

Dear Nigel,

I hope you had a good Christmas. Did you? I'm not sure whether i did or not. The problem is that thing called EXPECTATIONS. We all have them  - huge inflated things, impossibly sentimental and romantic things.

Sitting in my Christmas Wasteland amid the half-eaten pudding, the Turkey leftovers and the wreckage of fading decorations, bits of children's toys and mess, i begin to amass a list of all the obstacles to a decent family Christmas this year:

1. Illness.
My family and i, and half the country it seems, spent most of the run-up to the main event either being sick or groaning over a heavy cold and not being able to do anything in the way of Christmas preparations, particularly food ones. The normally heaving freezer and tins of smug mince pies gave way to hurried boxes of something not quite as worthy - however expensively packaged - and the  annual battle in the supermarket requiring medicinal compensation of the alcoholic variety.

2. Weather
Whether it was debilitating floods altering the travel plans of loved ones, emptying flood-alert homes just  at Christmastime, or simply rain, rain and more bloody rain, dark days and damp spirits; it came. Christmas cards  tell us that the natural weather for this time of year is bright skies, snow-laden landscapes and ethereal beauty - not many cards depicting cars being washed away under bridges it seems. Yet. I feel a new generation of Christmas cards being invented as we speak: sarcastic realism...remember the year the dog took the turkey off the side while you were busy laying the table and it had to be rescued, reformed and one leg removed in the interests of hygiene?...etc

3. Difficult Teenagers.
You may not have had the pleasure of this one, but i can assure you that this sub-species has the power to crack Christmas wide open with its minimal words and grunts. The plea (almost hysterical ) to get the family to the Christmas table at just the right moment, being met with a 'Just going for a shower now' boils the blood instantly - at least mine. Don't think Jamie Oliver or Gordon Ramsey have this trouble with their brood; it's all those sharpened knives, you know....dinner will be served now, won't it?

On the plus side, apparently the presents were acceptable, the stockings up to scratch and the dinner did at least all make it on the same day...and i jest not. But i'm still left sitting in a puddle of destruction with an appetite for nothing it seems.

I turn to your diary to see what you're up to.

December 27th: 'With snow still on the ground and mercifully little to do, three of us sit at the kitchen hob making warm hotcakes of sweet mincemeat and brandy butter.' Here maybe lies my answer. Instead of me sweating over things i don't wish to cook and don't wish to eat, a communal activity of conveyor belt eating. Like pancake day marathons, there is much to be said for the clamour for the next one fresh from the pan. Perhaps with the added attraction of an appetite formulated on a walk in the rain. Sophie is desperate to use her new umbrella with its kitten handle, so what the heck, out with the wellies. Teenagers have a habit of waking up when they smell food. Like dogs really. The little mincemeat hot cakes you make (like drop scones) will use up the leftover mincemeat nicely and a couple of clementines knocking around in the fruit bowl. Shopping aversion has set in. There is a deep split in a nation of those living to shop and those shopping to live if pictures on the news are to be believed.

I have put away my Turkey now. Made the stock for soup, made the traditional Turkey curry, and cold meats and pickles for a Boxing Day cooks rebellion; 'the day those working 'below stairs' would open their presents and count the tips box' (...still waiting for that tips box...) You enjoy the annual ritual of stripping the Turkey from the joint, and, i have to admit there is something very therapeutic about slipping the flesh from the bones and frugally easing off each minute morsel to add to the pile on the table. Your chosen recipe for leftovers this year is a Christmas bubble and squeak (page 512) made with red cabbage - leftovers if possible - an apple, and goose or turkey trimmings. This will be tasty-enough for me to be able to cope with the red cabbage. And fried again. This is not the time for New Year penance and self-flagellation.

Best wishes for a really good year next year. Think we probably both deserve it.


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