Christ­mas menu

En­joy a day of care­free in­dul­gence

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - CONTENTS -

If I think about the things that make Christ­mas feel like Christ­mas, it’s not just the op­por­tu­nity to get to­gether and spend some spe­cial time with ex­tended fam­ily and friends, or even the shar­ing of presents – in our fam­ily, at least, it’s ac­tu­ally very much about the food.

Like no other time of the year, Christ­mas is the time we come to the ta­ble pre­pared to be glut­tonous. Woe be­tide any­one who turns up and tells you they only eat raw, or starts go­ing on about clean eat­ing. Christ­mas is not about self-de­nial or preach­ing elit­ist ideas about well­ness. On De­cem­ber 25 we don’t need or want coconut wa­ter or ca­cao nibs, beet­root smooth­ies or ume­boshi paste dress­ings. Just re­mem­ber healthy eat­ing is about long-term habits, not what you eat on this one spe­cial day. At Christ­mas we want tra­di­tion, and lash­ings of it, please.

The ori­gins of Christ­mas are re­li­gious, but you don’t need to be re­li­gious in any way to en­joy it. At its essence, Christ­mas is a cel­e­bra­tion of fam­ily and friend­ship. At my fam­ily ta­ble, as part of the tra­di­tion of shar­ing the Christ­mas spirit, there are al­ways waifs and strays. We never like the idea of some­one be­ing home alone on this day of cel­e­bra­tory feast­ing. In com­ing to­gether at the Christ­mas ta­ble, we cre­ate a big­ger fam­ily idea, a shared ref­er­ence point, which, in this fast-chang­ing world, serves to an­chor our col­lec­tive re­sponse around an idea of in­clu­sive­ness and be­long­ing. For a brief mo­ment the world can stop, as we sit to­gether the way we al­ways have, wear­ing funny pa­per party hats, pulling crack­ers and gorg­ing our­selves silly. In such a way, year af­ter year, we cre­ate a po­tent store of mem­o­ries that in them­selves help to shape our iden­tity.

Get­ting Christ­mas din­ner on the ta­ble is in­vari­ably a mam­moth ef­fort, but in a way that’s what makes it Christ­mas – even if you share the load among other fam­ily mem­bers, the fact that you pull out all the stops to cre­ate an amaz­ing feast is part of what makes it so mem­o­rable.

We want ev­ery­one to come to the ta­ble with an ap­petite, and eat to ex­cess, to have one too many meringues, or an ex­tra help­ing of ham or turkey or those waxy, sweet just-har­vested new pota­toes. Year af­ter year we leave the Christ­mas ta­ble swear­ing we will never eat so much ever again — then it rolls around again and, of course, we all do. Christ­mas just would not be Christ­mas with­out that feel­ing that you have over­done it. And then once it’s over you get to have a lie-down.

Just in case you’re still in a quandary over what to serve, this week I’m shar­ing a de­li­cious duck dish that can be made ahead and crisped up in the oven at the last minute. It’s great with a tangy cran­berry rel­ish and a sum­mery, trop­i­cal mango and av­o­cado salad. Happy Christ­mas!


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