Yesterdays blog got me thinking about the whole Christmas dinner “thing”. If I added up the amount of Sunday roasts that I have cooked for my family over the years it would be hundreds. Its simple, on Sunday I whack a bit of meat in the oven, peel some vedge, shove them in, make some yorkies, bit of gravy and voila it’s done. Now and again I might even make a pudding,it’s something I do without thinking. It is after all just cooking.
Stick the twenty fifth of December into the mix and for some reason something that I do every day of the week becomes akin to neurosurgery. People start talking about the size “of your bird” in hushed tones, will I be wrapping it in bacon, putting lemon infused butter under the skin, stuffing the neck, stuffing the cavity (that btw is a total no no nowadays apparently) rubbing it in cider, bathing it in brine three weeks before the actual event, cooking it on its breast, cooking it right side up, the list is endless. To cover it in foil or not to cover it in foil, that is another question. Then its the how long does it need cooking for conundrum. If my mother in laws anything to go by about eight weeks, but people are obsessed (and I’m not saying this lightly here) with putting your “bird” in the oven overnight. “WHY” I want to scream, when is the last time you have ever cooked anything over night and kept it cooking till two the following afternoon? Then manage to get upset when your told the birds “a little dry this year” I mean after that long in an oven your lucky it hasn’t shrunk to the size of a poussin. Dry ,the things been cremated! So much for soaking it, singing to it and massaging it with truffle oil, whats the point when you cook it so it’s inedible.
Once its cooked, (be it overnight or not) you have to go through the whole “are the juices running clear” routine. At any other time of the year I can safely tell when my joint of meat is done, I’m very proud of the fact that I have never poisoned anyone who has sat at my table, so why do I suddenly need at least five people to tell me that the “bird” is “safe to eat”. I’ve been tempted to draft in random passers by “excuse me would you say there’s a streak of red in that otherwise clear juice, should I put it back do you think?” Honestly it’s like mastermind for turkey juices.All logical thinking goes out the window, you see streaks of red in everything.
Once the bacon laden, butter infused, foil covered, brine rinsed “bird” has been deemed ready for human consumption it’s the “how long do you rest it for?” debate. This is crucial to the taste, according to any celebrity chef. It’s (hopefully) clear juices need to flow freely round the meat for maximum flavour, (or something along those lines.) If you have cooked your turkey for less than twenty four hours then hopefully you will still have some juices to see, any longer and I wouldn’t bother with the resting palava, you should probably get the eating experience over as soon as possible! Once it’s been rested, (and you have to hope that this turkey was treated with as much care when it was alive) it’s the moment of truth, as the designated “carver” is handed the Knife and carving fork ready to serve the fruits of your labour. Even that’s on another level, do you want the light meat or dark meat? I have no idea exactly what people are on about when they ask me this but, it’s a fact apparently this one specimen has various shades of meat about its person, that’s without the whole “would you like a breast or leg” scenario!Once you have gone through the whole calving rigmarole the meat can finally hit the plates (which are warmed obviously).
Blimey as if that isn’t exhausting enough just because its Christmas we need to add around forty different kinds of vedge, stuffing, bread sauce, cranberry sauce (that you have to make yourself) and sausages wrapped in bacon. Now the old sausage as a side order thing really makes me wonder “What were they thinking when they invented that”. Whens the last time you went out for a meal and said “Oooh steak and chips please , plus a couple of sausages on the side, and while your at it could you wrap them in bacon too?, just in case they aren’t meaty enough on their own”. We have meat with a side order of sausage only on this one day. If I go against this bonkers tradition I face mutiny in the ranks, my children live for those little sausages, and if the husband doesn’t get his stuffing balls (more porky meaty stuff) we may as well cancel the whole festivities.
I’m almost sure you don’t serve a nut roast with extra nuts and a side order of more nuts do you? What is it with all these meaty extras, it’s a bit like a bird in a bird in a bird roast, but that’s another story.
For some reason you are compelled to prepare more potatoes than you thought possible, sprouts like they are going out of fashion and, feel the urge to coat your parsnips in honey, then and add chestnuts and BACON (see the pork theme here) to your sprouts. Red cabbage suddenly becomes appealing as does a bit of cauliflower cheese, forget five a day at Christmas time, you get your whole years supply of vitamins in the time it takes you to eat. No wonder it takes about three hours to dish up. Christmas dinner is twelve meals rolled into one.
If your not really feeling the festive cooking lurve there are also those people who say “I just don’t want to do all that work I’m buying the whole thing pre prepared this year.” At any other time of year that’s known as a “ready meal” folks. Come Christmas and it’s “pre prepared”. The rule book is certainly thrown out the window over the yuletide season. Cooking suddenly becomes a chore, a huge job, like something we really only do annually. Sticking something in the oven now seems akin with climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. I don’t get it. I’ts just a big roast. Yes I understand that the turkey is enourmous and the vedge selection can seem intimidating but, at the end of the day it’s a giant chicken with a few condiments. I suppose it doesn’t sound that impressive when you put it like that. Christmas dinner is steeped in some sort of folk lore, which seems to ensure that for one day only cooking a roast is the hardest and most exhausting task that you will ever do in your life.
Everything with Christmas dinner needs to be that bit more complicated it seems. The pudding for example needs steaming for hours, then it’s all the flavored creams, plus brandy butter. As if that wasn’t enough your supposed to set fire to the pudding, not forgetting to stick random pieces of money inside it for the “lucky” guest to find. The whole pudding experience I’m sure you can see is fraught with danger. If you avoid going up in smoke there’s still a chance you could choke to death on a coin or at best loose a filling! Honestly, and we are supposed to enjoy this…….
Lastly the clear up operation is mamouth, is it surprising I ask you, for some reason you manage to use every pot that you own. The kitchen resembles something like the morning after the night before. It baffles me it really does. At no other time of year does a roast create so much work, effort or debate. The lengths that we go to in order to ensure that the whole thing is perfect are unbelievable, yet no matter how hard you try I can guarantee that someone round the table will say “how long did you cook this for?,any chance of more gravy”!