Coun­try Squire

ROB IN­GRAM LOOKS AT HOW CHRIST­MAS DIN­ING HAS CHANGED OVER TIME.

Country Style - - CONTENTS - CHRIST­MAS 2018

OKAY, EVER SINCE ALVIN and the Chip­munks and The Mup­pets hi­jacked Christ­mas, piped car­ols have rung through our shop­ping malls ear­lier and ear­lier. But has any­one — like me — no­ticed that the Christ­mas meal has also be­come an ex­tended event? There was a time when it was up early to shell the prawns and in­vent a salad or two. Even tak­ing over the kitchen on Christ­mas Eve to glaze the ham while Chan­nel 9 pre­sen­ters, who had drawn the short straw, gri­maced through an­other Car­ols By Can­dle­light at Mel­bourne’s Sid­ney Myer Mu­sic Bowl. But these days, we’ve got the apron on while it’s still Novem­ber. Crikey, I’m old enough to re­mem­ber when labour­sav­ing was all the rage. I’ve even got a cup­board un­der the sink full of long-for­got­ten uten­sils and gad­gets to prove it. Some will re­call there was once a time when we were only too pleased to throw an as­sort­ment of in­gre­di­ents into the pres­sure cooker. We would dredge some­thing out of the boiler on the all-enamel elec­tric range, switch off the elec­tric fry­pan, put aside the elec­tric mixer and re­tire to the kitchen ta­ble. Of course, that was back in the days when elec­tric­ity was af­ford­able. But, for what­ever rea­son, meal prepa­ra­tion has changed. Now, two-in­come fam­i­lies with cash to spare, friends to im­press and as­pi­ra­tions to sat­isfy are mad for a bit of high liv­ing and the kitchen is the fo­cal point of their so­cial dis­play. In­ex­pli­ca­bly, the kitchen has ceased be­ing labour-sav­ing and be­come de­lib­er­ately time-con­sum­ing in­stead. To­day, so­phis­ti­ca­tion is grow­ing your own herbs (in the kitchen gar­den or on the kitchen win­dow ledge), bak­ing your own bread, pick­ling your own veg­eta­bles, cur­ing your own meats, sim­mer­ing your own stocks, mak­ing your own vine­gars and cre­at­ing not only your own pesto but your own pasta, too. Food prepa­ra­tion has be­come so­phis­ti­cated by be­com­ing prim­i­tive. To­day’s to-die-for kitchen not only has en­gi­neered stone bench­tops and hi-tech re­frig­er­a­tors with wi-fi-en­abled touch­screens for look­ing up recipes, but the full range of French peas­ant kitchen­ware — wooden spoons, meat mal­lets, wire whisks, meat hooks, stone mor­tar and pes­tles, man­ual cof­fee bean grinders and hand­made pot­tery. Now, let’s get started on the meal. Spring is a good time to re­con­di­tion the soil in the pots you’ll use to grow the tar­ragon, chervil, chives and pars­ley you’ll need for your favourite sugar snap, lime, ri­cotta and fines herbes salad. Af­ter the last of the late frosts, get in the cherry toma­toes and grape toma­toes for the spiced tomato dress­ing to ex­cite the prawn and av­o­cado salad. And don’t for­get to pickle the nec­tarines to ac­com­pany the glazed ham. Want to try your hand at a na­tive in­gre­di­ent theme? Track­ing down le­mon myr­tle, na­tive thyme, aniseed myr­tle and moun­tain pep­per to go with the turkey is trendily time­con­sum­ing. Why not throw in some fried salt­bush, too? This mis­sion can help stretch out the won­der­ment of Christ­mas over sev­eral weeks. Of course, it’s es­pe­cially nice if the whole fam­ily con­trib­utes to the Christ­mas ta­ble. Christ­mas of­ten ex­cites chil­dren and chip­munks more than it does us adults. So get the kids in­volved in twist­ing grapevine cut­tings into wreaths. It will bring a sullen si­lence to their Santa hys­te­ria — mak­ing the home a much nicer place. Oh, and one last tip. Don’t for­get to sched­ule a nice nap be­fore the guests ar­rive.

THERE WAS A TIME WHEN IT WAS UP EARLY TO SHELL THE PRAWNS AND IN­VENT A SALAD OR TWO.

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