This year for a change, we’ll join the ranks of the ‘waifs and strays’ who are often welcomed at the traditional family feast. Everyone must play their part in the annual Christmas pageant, of course, and this year it’s our turn to be ‘guests at the table.’ Temporarily bereft of our close family, we’re expected next door at our beloved neighbours, where the roast turkey and salmon will be laid out for our delectation.
The most convenient place to cook up the roasties and the main dishes, of course, is still in our big wood-fired bakery oven, so I’ll have set the fire going by about 7am, and will rake the embers and ash out before leaving for the church service. At the beginning of the service, we’ll be able to sing that final verse of ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’ which is usually printed but left in anticipation to be sung only on the big day. Meanwhile, the hot ceiling and walls of the oven will be cooking everything nicely throughout the early afternoon, so we can sit down together for the feast around 3pm. Like most of us, I suspect, we’ll catch the Queen’s Christmas Message on iPlayer later, if we’re not sleeping it all off!
Before the main feast, just to keep us going, in the warm and cosy Elf Hole, we’ll have smoked salmon on specially toasted Allendale Bakery bread, along with lovely tiny brioche morsels enveloping a perfectly unctuous dollop of gruyère in the middle, all served with great aplomb on a perfect little table (unwanted at the Charity Auction) that was rescued from the bonfire. There seem to be quite a few metaphors or moral twists in this diary entry today! And then, since I shall be playing at being mein host throughout the festive season, I’ll continue to serve behind the bar while the cooks decamp to the kitchen to make the final preparations. I suspect we’ll have a few ‘Fairy Tale of New York’ iterations on the small sound system, as that festive song seems to be the favourite around here. Soon thereafter we’ll get the call and we’ll all sit down together for the Christmas feast.
Just in case there are any vegetarians amongst us, the range of vegetable side dishes will be immense: the exotic ‘oca’ in the photo above, an Andean root vegetable with a unique, rather nutty and sweet-astringent flavour, that did very well this year in our large cold frame; the afore-mentioned roast potatoes, from my carefully selected, award-winning crop; roast parsnips coated in parmesan cheese; Brussels sprouts of course, though probably grown right here in the UK; sliced red cabbage for piquancy; mashed sweet potatoes topped with melted marshmallow (a classic Canadian side dish); two kinds of stuffing, including one with chestnuts; possibly an added complement of carrots and french beans; bread and cranberry sauces; lashings of unctuous hot gravy; over, I believe, a fair quantity of Yorkshire puddings. I’m never sure how on earth, after all that, we shall dare attempt a bowl of Chris Welton’s incredible ‘trifle,’ a dessert dish so inaptly named in context, but we’ll give it an heroic effort, I’m sure.
Perhaps we’ll collapse then, enjoy a family game or another quiet retreat to the Elf Hole for sustenance. Naturally, there may be presents! This year we’ve set ourselves a mutual rule: any presents must be recycled or hand-made goods, to a maximum of £20 spend per recipient. I’m not confident, however, that our residual wrapping paper, carefully folded and stored over the past year, will be sufficient unto demand.
Depending on the clarity of the skies, we might jump into the hot tub later in the evening, just to marvel at the twinkling diamond lights in the firmament above, to watch the space station twirling around the earth, or to catch a falling star. We’ll have missed our family, of course, but at some point we’ll expect to have enjoyed their digital presence through the internet.
We’ll be hoping everyone throughout this land, and wherever the festive season might be celebrated, will have had some cause for joy and goodwill throughout this day.
Merry Christmas to all!