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- Roald Dahl Day – 13 September
Xmas Day in the Workhouse (By Emma’s mum)
It’s all well and good reading my daughter’s version of Xmas Day, but here is mine.
I thought I was really organised, having bought most of the food well before the big day. That is, except the star of the show, the turkey. We hedged our bets and waited until the eleventh hour when mercifully Mr Sainsbury decided to reduce the prices. The huge beast (fresh) occupied most of my fridge, demanding my expert packing skills and some foul language (excuse the pun), to ram in everything else that required a cool temperature.
Xmas Day dawned early, and as I gradually came to from my slumbers, I could hear my husband already crashing around in the kitchen forcing the beast into the oven clothed in its silver coat. It is always imperative for your guests, albeit close family, to think that you are Mrs Competent personified, so, when I finally entered the kitchen, I wrote myself a list:
• Hot pre-lunch nibbles – 1 pack 160 degrees for ten minutes
• Second pack 180 degrees for fifteen minutes
• Third pack 175 degrees for 35 minutes
Nobody told me that you needed a Maths degree to cook Xmas lunch! I also faced a major problem. With all the potatoes roasting beautifully in their goose fat along with the parsnips, there was absolutely no room in the oven for my nibbles. Rant at husband for a few minutes, who assures me that Mr Turkey, once cooked, will need to ‘rest’ at which time there will be a vacant shelf in the oven. How comes the turkey gets to rest and I am rushing around like a headless one?
Also on my list:
• Bread Sauce (Cheat’s version – Tesco’s Finest range) Microwave 4 minutes, stir and microwave for another 2 minutes, and then pretend that you made it yourself
• Put stuffing balls in oven 20 minutes before serving lunch
• Juggle around with all my serving dishes until there is a home for all the food in some receptacle or other
Meanwhile, the family has arrived with 88 year old great granddad, who looks totally bewildered and bemused at all the noise and frantic ripping off of Xmas wrapping paper from presents. ‘Is that all you bought me grandma?’ are the dulcet tones uttered by one grandson, whilst my son surreptitiously moves all the ‘Heroes’ to the top of a cupboard out of reach of children’s grasping hands – but also, I am sad to say, out of my reach too!
Finally, hot nibbles have been eaten and it is time to begin the ordeal of serving all the food. Everything is going well, and I pride myself on my expert organisational skills, thinking ahead to all the praise that will be heaped on me later. I now need to decant the crunchy, golden potatoes into the white porcelain dish that was a wedding present for my daughter and son in law ten years ago, and which she still has not taken home. I yank off the bubble wrap, avoiding the temptation to start popping a few bubbles, and as I do so, I inadvertently knock over the complete jug which is full of the Cordon Bleu gravy that my other half has spent hours perfecting.
In my head, I envisage the scene that will ensue when I break the bad news to him. This is nothing compared with the real thing. I am accused of panicking and clumsiness, neither of which is true. My daughter comes into the kitchen, looks at the gloopy mess all over the floor, the cooker, the kitchen units and me, and says: ‘How can I help?’ In her head, I am sure she is thinking: ‘Please say that it is OK and I can go back to the dining room.’
And then, I start mopping up operations, and although all the family know that the gravy is long gone, they have no idea what I am going through alone in the kitchen. Hundreds of pieces of kitchen paper thirstily suck up the wine-infused gravy, and then my Squeegy mop does the rest. By now I am sweating and sliding around on the revolting floor. I hear sporadic bursts of laughter as the family continue their fun, oblivious to my plight.
It is then that I suddenly realise that although I am serving up lunch, I have failed to check my list and have omitted to put the stuffing balls in the oven. The two words, ‘stuffing’ and ‘balls’ figure in my expletives, though not necessarily in that order! I shove them in, thinking ‘Better late than never,’ and join my family who are gathered happily around the dining room table pulling crackers and telling pathetic jokes. There are no gifts inside the crackers, and we realise that my husband has been seduced into buying half price crackers in M&S not realising that they are Bingo crackers!
Thankfully, against all the odds, Xmas lunch is a success. The numerous sauces (a prune and apple sweet and sour one also made by my other half), cranberry sauce and bread sauce, all serve to add moisture to replace the missing gravy. The Xmas Pud comes in aflame, and my daughter’s chocolate yule log looks amazing, as does my daughter in law’s fruit platter.
I gaze around the table at the four generations of my family happily assembled there, and feel totally blessed. From my latest granddaughter at just 17 months old, to the other end of the spectrum at 88, I realise how lucky I am. My husband, during his more fraught moments in the lead up to Xmas, says: ‘Let’s just go away next year,’ but I wouldn’t miss this for the world!
By Lindy (Emma’s mum)