Amuse bouche...

First mar­ried Christ­mas

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - APPETITES -

‘Mrs Kennedy?” “Je­sus Christ, Lucy, are you ever go­ing to cop on and start call­ing me An­gela, or what?” “Sorry, An­gela,” Lucy said. “What are you do­ing with the pota­toes?” “I’m roast­ing them. What do you think I’m do­ing with them? Do you not have roast pota­toes in your house for Christ­mas din­ner?” “We do, but, well, you haven’t par­boiled them.” “Yeah,” said An­gela, and sniffed. Der­mot did an im­per­son­ation of his mother do­ing this. Der­mot had told Lucy, this mouth might be say­ing yes, but the sniff said no. Oh dear. “Sorry,” Lucy said. “You know, dif­fer­ent fam­i­lies, dif­fer­ent ways. Mum al­ways par­boils them.” “Yeah,” An­gela re­peated. And sniffed. “Mum.” An­gela was Mam. Not Mum. Yeah.

Lucy hadn’t spent a Christ­mas Day away from her fam­ily be­fore, but it was their first mar­ried Christ­mas. And Der­mot had in­dulged all her pre-wed­ding in­san­ity, so she went along with spend­ing it with his par­ents first. It wasn’t like she’d never had din­ner there be­fore. Lucy had eaten plenty of Mam’s Sun­day lunches, and they were fine, if a bit agri­cul­tural, but Christ­mas was dif­fer­ent. Or, as was be­com­ing ob­vi­ous, re­ally dif­fer­ent.

Right now, though, Lucy wanted to cry. Noth­ing was prop­erly Christ­massy here. Look at what Mam was do­ing to the pota­toes. They’d be rock hard on the out­side, not crispy at all, not like Mum’s, which were shaken in semolina once they’d been par­boiled.

Mam was serv­ing a ham, a spiced beef, a tur­key and a “small” leg of lamb for Der­mot’s brother, Benny, who didn’t like the other meats. The kitchen smelt meaty. Not even the botan­i­cals in Lucy’s very large gin and tonic could drown out that. And Mam had four kinds of pota­toes. Four. “A dif­fer­ent spud for ev­ery son,” Mam joked.

Mam was sweat­ing by the time she sat down. The mash was a tiny bit lumpy, the sprouts were sul­phuric and the roast pota­toes were just as Lucy had an­tic­i­pated. “Not per­fect, Lucy-Loo, but lots of va­ri­ety. That’s what Christ­mas din­ner is all about,” Mam said. Lucy re­alised she’d rather less va­ri­ety and a bit of fi­nesse, and won­dered how the hell she was go­ing to bring Der­mot around to this idea by next Christ­mas.

“And all by my own fair hand,” added Mam. “Not a bit of help.”

Der­mot shot Lucy a look. Lucy shot one back; one she hoped com­mu­ni­cated that she had of­fered and been re­buffed many times by Mam.

“Yeah, lovely,” said Lucy. And sniffed.

SARAH CADEN

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