Yo­tam Ot­tolenghi

The Guardian - Feast - - News -

In these un­usual times, Christ­mas seems the only ‘safe place’ for cus­tom and rit­ual. But even this tra­di­tion can­not es­cape con­tro­versy. Do we cel­e­brate it at all? And, if so, do we do it with any of the usual re­li­gious sym­bols, or in a more gen­eral, hu­man­is­tic way?

In our house, now that I, an ag­nos­tic Jew, have suc­cumbed to the idea of cel­e­brat­ing the birth­day of the son of God, the ar­gu­ments fo­cus on food. My hus­band Karl, who isn’t at all tra­di­tional, wants to pass on to our two sons some­thing di­rectly con­nected to his own child­hood. ‘Don’t pon­cify Christ­mas,’ he says if I sug­gest any­thing re­motely in­con­sis­tent with the turkey-stuff­ing-pota­toes-brus­sels of his early years in North­ern Ire­land.

To be fair, I see the point of hold­ing on to food tra­di­tions when they are gen­uinely rooted in a per­sonal or na­tional story. Food is a great care­taker of mem­ory. That is why our only change from tra­di­tion is a few pomegranate seeds on the sprouts.

I also ac­cept that one big thing in the cen­tre of the ta­ble en­hances and fo­cuses the feast. It needn’t be a turkey – to­day’s lamb shoul­der does a very good job. This Feast is all about the savoury main events (desserts are next week), from Anna Jones’ squash tart to Felic­ity Cloake’s per­fect ham, and Fiona Beck­ett has a wine rec­om­men­da­tion for ev­ery­one’s recipes. What­ever you do, though, eat, eat some more and be very, very merry.

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