It would seem there is a trend these days for the alternative message to that of the King. Some are anti-royalist, some humorous, whilst I have chosen this year to entitle my Christmas round up “The Chef’s Message”; it is in no way an alternative to the tradition set by his mother, Queen Elizabeth II.
Christmas has become a holiday not the Holy Day it originally set out to be. On Christmas Eve I preached a sermon which opened asking the congregation what image sprung to mind when “Christmas Spirit” or “the Spirit of Christmas” was mentioned. I offered the images that Charles Dickens painted in our imaginations, as generations have read the cautionary “A Christmas Carol”.
As a masterpiece of literature and of course morality; it has left me with another more powerful image; that of life in Victorian Britain for the average working family.
I refer to the Cratchit family and the feast they have prepared to celebrate Christmas Day. The old tradition of goose and all the trimmings. A meal enjoyed once a year, whilst for the 364 other days, the menu was stark and basic. A working family; a stone’s threw away from starvation.
The truth is most of us eat a banquet 365 days of the year. Having the luxury of choice not based upon what was available from an empty larder.
So modern Christmastide has forgotten these “Hard Times” as well as what the true meaning of Christmas is. So many ironies such as, the Jew looking forward to Christmas dinner including the “pigs in blanks”, or the atheist wishing you “Happy Holidays”. It seems people want the Birthday Party but not the Birthday Boy. The Birthday present is for them & their loved ones. A stark image of a hedonistic time where much cruelty is blamed upon the excesses of the season. (see National Press for Llanelli stories).
So what of our Christmas. I suppose it began with a dinner at our local favourite. Accidental guests in the form of a former colleague and his wife. We chatted about everything except my former career whilst we enjoyed some really scrumptious food and first class entertainment. I did mention fantastic company?
Having the congregation sing “Happy Birthday” to me accompanied by a church organ was new and quite humbling. Later the wonderful chocolate cake baked by one of the elders was breathtaking.
Mrs LatestSupper had booked a birthday meal and upon arrival I was told a bottle of Sparkling was on ice from the House. Mrs LatestSupper was informed of something too. The entire tab was being picked up by an anonymous party. A memorable and yet humbling birthday indeed: yet the main event had not taken place.
Christmas morning arrived – it did not dawn. Dawn is quite late these days. Another ‘bad’ night had been its prelude and plans of travelling to church had to be curtailed. Whilst the kettle boiled for coffee, I simply took a water biscuit and a small amount of Eisenberg ‘red’ and said my devotionals.
Later, joined by Mrs LatestSupper, we talked and drank some rather good coffee so much so the kettle needed a second boil and the cafetière was cleansed and filled for round #2.
Whilst I abluted, the oven and beef joint was prepared. Several vegetable too, and when I entered the kitchen we played a game of ‘tag’. I continued prepping the veggies, including the ones I was told not to.
3 large potatoes were peeled – two diced for mash, a third more chunky for roasties. A parsnip peeled and quarter, joining the chunky spuds in the air fryer with a wisp of 2 of oil. Pre-cooking for these as they would be finished in the beef juices. Half a large cauliflower made into florets and covered in cheap instant cheese sauce with added mixed spice – delicious. A large carrot quartered lengthwise & dice swede placed in the cage of the pressure cooker before sitting upon the water covered diced potatoes reserved for the mash.
In air fryer no2 butcher sourced pigs in blankets sizzled. On a baking tray laid star shaped stuffing balls and large Yorkies next to a tray of sprouts and chestnuts – these were supermarket sourced. Yes I cheated so bite me!
By midday we realised lunch was at least 3pm and our stomachs would not allow us to arrive ravenous at the appointed hour. Thus I entered my domain and magicked up a round of petite pains adorned with pickled garlic, Wookey Hole cheddar and red chilli chutney (another gift).
Sometime after the King we sat and ate. Why a Sunday roast at Christmas? Why not! Thanks to my calling I do not have the luxury of enjoying a Sunday roast. Therefore it was as special to us as the goose was to the Cratchits.
Despite my best efforts of cooking sufficient for us, there were leftovers. For those who enjoy turkey and a big bird (school boy smirk), I am fond of the jokes that talk of dining on turkey until Easter, or the ingredients for the infamous curry. My leftovers were placed in a pie dish with my homemade all butter shortcrust pastry. Even the pastry produced leftovers.
Boxing Day was to be a long day. I enjoyed luscious scrambled eggs and wholemeal toast courtesy of my better half. Recognition for yet another bad night. We later ventured to the rugby and I was somewhat pleased to know it wasn’t just me who had been enduring a ‘bad night’.
More normality and work returned, and so we look forward to more healthy eating and choices in 2024.
One last foray into the kitchen was to ‘use up’ the pastry and stuffing stars. A sort of festive sausage roll – cheese, plum chutney and stuffing finished with parmesan.
As we welcome 2024 and all the uncertainty it brings, we will be where it all started at Nik the Greek … again!
May you receive a blessing in the days ahead and learn by those behind us.