Thursday, 19 December 2013

Have Yourself a Beefy Little Christmas (unedited) - South Shropshire Journal 20/12/13

After all the old pipe I trotted out last week in praise of the turkey, I should probably come clean. Call me a hypocritical fraud if you like, but on Christmas Day I’ll be on beef. I knew that I would be weeks ago when I ordered it, I just didn’t want to share it with you. My massive hulk of a forerib has been hanging for several weeks now. Its flavour gaining depth as putrification is carefully controlled by John the butcher. I gave it a sniff the other day and no longer does it smell like dead cow, but sweet, stiltony, with musky inside-of-a-hymnbook notes.

If I’m careful not to get too smashed on bucks fizz and bloody Marys come Christmas morning I am confident that this bit of moo-moo will make for the best non-turkey dinner ever.

On a recent foray around my local supermarket (I’d been sent for clingfilm but got distracted), I noticed how one could actually get away with doing nothing on the big day. Ready-cooked stuffing, pigs in blankets, trimmed sprouts, pre-roasted spuds, gravy. Where’s the fun in that? That’s food for people who cook through a sense of obligation, rather than joy. If that’s you I’d argue that if your only decent dish is a killer fry-up, then make that instead, so much more giving. Christmas wouldn’t be the same for me without somebody throwing a wobbly in the kitchen and sobbing drunkenly into the bread sauce (a condiment by the way, that is the single greatest gift of the festive period).

There was a period in the early 2000s when I hated Christmas and selfishly swerved it regardless of how my family would regard my absence from the Yuletide table. I missed being there, especially on Christmas Eve.

I adore the night before Christmas. Baked ham with Mum’s knockout Cumberland sauce, carols from King’s on the wireless, midnight mass, the seasonal angst of not being able to find the end of the sellotape. Love it. The day after too, with leftovers, pickled onions (there must be pickled onions on Boxing Day), a slice of Christmas pud fried in butter for breakfast. The day in the middle is just a formality.   

So much of my Christmas is centred on abundant, expensive food that we could easily manage without, and family that we could not. This makes me outrageously fortunate. While I’m tucking in with my happy and healthy family, there will be so many out there with nothing and no-one, just wishing that Christmas would go away. I spare these people a thought, but I do nothing to make things better for them. Call me a hypocritical fraud if you like, again.

Whatever you eat over Christmas, wherever you eat it, and whoever (if anyone) you share it with, I wish you a harmonious and healthy one. 

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