Ladies do lunch

They’re six of our favourite TV pre­sen­ters – col­leagues and co-stars, and the best of friends off-screen too. Genevieve Gan­non joins the ladies of Seven for an al­fresco lunch to cel­e­brate the sea­son of food, fash­ion and friend­ship.

The Australian Women's Weekly - - Feasts for friends - FASH­ION PHO­TOG­RA­PHY by JULIE ADAMS FASH­ION STYLING by THE WEEKLY FASH­ION TEAM FOOD PHO­TOG­RA­PHY by JOHN PAUL URIZAR FOOD STYLING by MICHELE CRANSTON

The white Christ­mas mythol­ogy is so pow­er­ful that, here in Aus­tralia, we dec­o­rate our trees with snowflakes, even while the full force of the sum­mer sun beats down on us like the blow-torch Aunty Bev uses to scorch her Baked Alaska. The tra­di­tion of cel­e­brat­ing the day the win­tery Euro­pean way has been passed down for gen­er­a­tions, so for many of us, Christ­mas just isn’t Christ­mas with­out heavy pud­dings drown­ing in brandy sauce and a hot roast turkey.

Of course, we have uniquely Aus­tralian Christ­mas tra­di­tions too: work­ing off the lunch with a game of back­yard cricket in the new board­ies Santa brought, while the wicket-keeper fans her­self with a Christ­mas card and the kids test out the new in at­able pool toys. In def­er­ence to our Euro­pean tra­di­tions, we still serve hot ham and turkey. But they come with a side of mango.

The women of Chan­nel Seven are shar­ing some of their favourite Christ­mas tra­di­tions. For Sun­day Night host Melissa Doyle, who each year looks for­ward to metic­u­lously plan­ning what she’ll serve on Christ­mas Day, the meal is about the clas­sic hot dishes, as well as a whole se­lec­tion of sum­mery Aus­tralian de­lights. She de­clares she couldn’t have Christ­mas with­out glazed ham. Equally, her prawn and mango salad has be­come part of the Doyle fam­ily Christ­mas lore. “Prawns and man­gos are just such Aus­tralian, sum­mer sym­bols,” she says.

For many of us, af­ter the dou­ble hot-and-cold meal is eaten, the fam­ily re­tires to the lounge room for a lm or two – of­ten some­thing sea­sonal like It’s A Won­der­ful Life. But in The Morn­ing Show pre­sen­ter Kylie Gil­lies’ house­hold, ev­ery­one gath­ers around and watches old fam­ily movies.

“The kids love it,” she says. “It’s a time when we’re all to­gether so usu­ally it in­volves old fam­ily movies.”

Of course, for many fam­i­lies, Christ­mas is a time to re­mem­ber loved ones, rather than cel­e­brat­ing with them. Since the death of her older sis­ter, Tara, three years ago from lung can­cer, Christ­mas has been dif­fer­ent for sports jour­nal­ist Mel McLaugh­lin. She and her mother start Christ­mas Day with a visit to the ceme­tery. The rst year fol­low­ing Tara’s death, she says, no­body could muster the en­ergy to care about Christ­mas, but be­cause Tara’s two chil­dren, then three and ve, were ex­pe­ri­enc­ing their rst Christ­mas with­out their mother, ev­ery­one worked ex­tra hard to pre­serve the spe­cial day for them as much as pos­si­ble.

“You put it on for them,” she says. “It’s good the kids are there … Peo­ple get this idea that it has to be per­fect, but re­ally as long as ev­ery­one’s to­gether, ev­ery­one’s happy. It’s per­fect.”

Catch Saman­tha Army­tage and Natalie Barr as they host Wool­worths Car­ols in the Do­main on Satur­day De­cem­ber 22. Seven’s sum­mer cricket cov­er­age kicks off Satur­day De­cem­ber 1 with the Women’s Big Bash League, all live and free on the Seven Net­work.

Natalie Barr

News­reader Natalie Barr’s ap­proach to Christ­mas lunch is stricter than most. “When we grew up it was all of us around the ta­ble in Bun­bury hav­ing a hot lunch,” says Nat, who hails from a WA town where Christ­mas Day is reg­u­larly a 30-de­greeplus af­fair. The hot meal was a rule en­forced by her late fa­ther, who ban­ished cold meat and salad from the ta­ble. “He said you can have cold meat and salad any day of the year.”

It’s a tra­di­tion she’s con­tin­ued. “We’ll never have cold meat and salad for Christ­mas un­til the day I die be­cause of him,” she in­sists. Her beloved fa­ther, Jim, died when she was preg­nant with son Lach­lan, now al­most 17. “But the hot Christ­mas lunch is still fol­low­ing us around,” says Nat. “I in­sist on do­ing what Dad did; do­ing what was re­ally im­por­tant to Dad.”

Saman­tha Army­tage

For Sun­rise host Saman­tha Army­tage, Christ­mas starts the night be­fore, when the fam­ily at­tends mid­night mass. “It’s al­ways about fam­ily,” she says. “And I like the an­tic­i­pa­tion Santa’s not far away.”

They re­turn from church to lay a feast for mid­night vis­i­tors (car­rots for the rein­deer, peanuts and beer for Santa), then it’s off to bed. Sam’s house­hold greets the dawn with a glass of cham­pagne. “That’s some­thing I’ve in­tro­duced,” Sam says. It puts ev­ery­one in a nice re­laxed mood be­fore the day’s work be­gins. Christ­mas is a hot lunch in Wagga “sur­rounded by flies”.

“My sis­ter loves turkey so we al­ways have turkey and prawns,” Sam says. She fin­ishes the day with a tra­di­tion that’s surely shared the world over: “A sleep in the af­ter­noon.”

Mel McLaugh­lin

For Mel, it isn’t Christ­mas un­til she’s sourced a tall, bushy tree and dec­o­rated it with the sort of flair that would make Martha Ste­wart en­vi­ous.

“No-one else is al­lowed to touch the Christ­mas tree. I like to get it and dec­o­rate it and I’m re­ally judg­men­tal,” she laughs. It’s a rit­ual rooted in her child­hood. “I used to go with Dad when we were lit­tle to get a real tree,” she says. “As soon as I could drive I took con­trol.” Her un­cle, who passed away when she was 16, had pre­vi­ously been in charge of con­jur­ing up a mag­i­cal red and gold Christ­mas de­light. “It’s prob­a­bly from him I got this idea about how things are sup­posed to be,” she says. “I re­mem­ber my nephew, he was two and he was look­ing up at it, and I said, ‘Eli you’re re­ally beau­ti­ful but don’t touch that’.”

De­spite her de­vo­tion to dec­o­rat­ing, she says the most im­por­tant thing is every­body is to­gether.

Op­po­site page, top right: Saman­tha wears Witch­ery dress, $199.95; Di­nosaur De­signs ear­rings, $230, and ban­gles, from $55 (small), $85 (large). Mel wears Saba dress, $299; Di­nosaur De­signs ban­gle, $350, and Valere ear­rings, $130. Kylie wears Witch­ery dress, $199.95; Di­nosaur De­signs ban­gles, from $55, (small), to $85, (large), and Reliquia ear­rings, $149.

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