In late November, I consider the Home Alone soundtrack, tentatively putting it on with headphones turned down low, lest I am rumbled listening to Christmas music before December. At home, the conversations start to make their annual crescendo: how we’ll do the sprouts this year, what dessert we’ll make for the Xmas-pud-nay-sayers, and the day-by-day festive booze schedule.
You get the idea. It’s always the same. And I love it. It’s likely that you love it, too.
Christmas isn’t really a time for novelty; the festive season brings the year to a familiar and predictable climax. Whatever we’ve done in the 12 months preceding, wherever we’ve been and with whomever, Christmas brings with it the cosiness of the known. At no other time of year do I embrace tradition with such gusto; while normally I look for new experience at every opportunity, at Christmas I welcome certainty.
This is true not least in food, from clementine peel and beyond. As a food journalist, I work in a world where every new trend is pored over; I spend my year tracking the rise of vegans, the popularity of pickles and ferments, of poke bowls, of local sourcing and Food Assemblies, and wondering what’s coming next. But on Christmas Eve, I know I’ll be mopping up parsley sauce with a forkful of mashed potato and roast gammon, seeing Turkey & Co. on the 25th, and will expect those epic leftover sandwiches on Boxing Day.
All that said, while Christmas’s culinary traditions are for me a line drawing done in Sharpie, I like to think those lines can be coloured in a little differently each year, the hues and tones shifting with my fancies. Just as Destiny’s Child covered “Silent Night”, I can remix my sprouts according to the year’s mood – just as long as there are sprouts on the table.
2. Roast potatoes. Never much seen the point of doing them in goose fat, especially given we are not Dickensians and most of us don’t even eat goose for Christmas lunch any more. Why exclude the vegetarians? I like Jamie Oliver's offering here, which gives three options with olive oil, butter and, yes, goose fat, respectively. In my house, we always opt for incidentally vegan-friendly ones, which delight just as much as the alternatives (IMHO), tossing fluffy boiled floury potatoes in hot olive oil and plenty of salt.
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