Enjoy a day of carefree indulgence
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!
ASIAN DUCK CONFIT