Ok so this is my first year cooking Christmas dinner. I have no idea how to do it. I mean I’m a mother so I know that this is one of the things that I should know how to do but I’ll be honest I’ve no idea what I’m doing. I’m twenty-six now. I should be able to cook a simple Christmas dinner in my own home with my children. That’s the plan for this year’s dinner. My two children, myself, our springer spaniel, and possibly my parent’s terrier. I have spent nearly all my twenty-six years watching my mother turn out Christmas dinner after Christmas dinner. Really how hard can it be? I’m fecking terrified.
To start I’ve got to go and buy a turkey. Do I buy fresh or frozen? Is there a difference? Is there a difference between buying fresh at the supermarket and fresh at the butchers? Do I buy a whole turkey or part of a turkey? These are all questions to be considered. But it’s once I get the fecker home that the problems really begin. How do I cook the thing?! I asked my Dad for his advice since I’m quietly (or not so quietly) freaking about this whole thing. Dad says I, I’m going to cook Christmas dinner in my own house this year. Grand, says he, me and your mother will go to your aunts house. Great you’ll enjoy that. That will be nice, says I, one question though. How do I cook a turkey? And Dad, being the most supportive person in the world and understanding completely how nerve wracking this is for me, looks at me and says ‘in the oven’. I’m not that fecking stupid. I know I need to put it in the oven. But for how long and at what temperature? What the hell am I meant to do with this dead bird?!!
So to calm myself down I got up the google website and typed in ‘how to cook a turkey’. I was a child in the nineties, my first reaction when faced with a problem is to check the internet (it’s also my first reaction when told something which may or may not be true, check the internet, if the internet says it’s true then it must be). Google brought up an astonishing number of websites for me to look at. Thank you, Google. I first clicked on one with the heading ‘how to roast the best turkey ever’. That sounded promising. It seemed very easy and came with a handy guide on calculating how long it would need to stay in the oven. The second link claimed it could teach me ‘how to make the best Christmas dinner’. That’s exactly what I need because as you’ll see it’s not just the turkey that scares me. It’s the entire fucking thing! Unfortunately website number two has slightly different advice and a completely different handy guide on calculating oven time than website number one. Onto website number three: ‘how to cook the best Thanksgiving turkey ever’. Well, a turkey is a turkey. It was also telling me slightly different things.
Stuff the turkey. Don’t stuff the turkey. Only stuff the neck. Put things in the cavity. Don’t put things in the cavity. Only stuff the turkey if you have a specific type of oven. Don’t stuff the turkey if you have that specific type of oven. Make your own stuffing. Don’t make your own stuffing. Cook the stuffing separately. Don’t cook the stuffing separately. Wash the turkey. Don’t wash the turkey. Is it any wonder I’ve no notion what I’m doing?!!
And then there’s all the stuff that goes along with the turkey. Vegetables and sausages and sauces and extra stuff. It’s all these extra things that confuse me. Apparently I’m meant to do mashed potatoes and roast potatoes, carrots and broccoli and Brussels sprouts even though nobody will eat them. And cranberry sauce to go with something. The turkey? Is it the turkey that cranberry sauce goes with? And a ham? Having a ham is a thing. It’s one of those traditional Christmas things. You know turkey and ham for Christmas dinner. Am I not having enough fecking difficulty with the turkey without bringing a pig into it too? I’ve no notion how to cook a ham. Do you boil it? And gravy and little sausages which if left unattended will be scoffed by my daughter because she is obsessed with cocktail sausages. I’m serious. If you leave her alone with those things she will practically inhale them. And Yorkshire puddings, although I’ll admit I already know I’m going to cheat with those and buy pre made ones.
Then once I get the main course out of the way, and yes I’ve still to panic about the starter, then there’s desert. It’s a problem because I hate Christmas pudding. I detest it. My kids don’t eat it either. So there’s the problem of what to get for desert. Yule log, maybe? With ice cream? I don’t know. I do know that we’ve got to have a cake but I hate Christmas cake too. I think I’ll just buy one of those nicely iced Christmas themed chocolate cakes.
Ok so starters. Is prawn cocktail Christmassy? Probably not. I could do soup. Maybe. Or a small smoked salmon salad. Or something. I sense many hours of surfing recipe websites in my future. Oh Jesus, I’m going to have to make a schedule. I have young children who are even now over the top excited about Santa. This means that I will be up at the crack of dawn listening to squeals of excitement (this is good) and trying to fit roughly 10 metres of wrapping paper into a bin bag as it is torn from nicely wrapped presents and scattered around my living room (this is not so good). I’ve also got to go to church. I don’t go much. Ok I don’t go ever, but I try to make an effort on Christmas day. After that I’ve then got to attempt to cook a meal I’ve never even come close to trying to cook before.
I’m serious. I’ve never even helped my mother with it. If we tried to help we were hunted out of the kitchen and told to go away and sit down and stop getting under her feet. I’ve never even stood in the same room while she made Christmas dinner. Neither I nor my little brother have the faintest idea how she makes it. We just eat it and then spend all afternoon lying around like beached whales – too full to move.
I’m going to need an army like schedule. Or stay up to a ridiculous time the night before getting stuff ready. Except I'll be up anyway wrapping presents and stowing them safely under the tree. This would be the tree that I haven’t got up and decorated yet. Actually this would be the tree I haven’t even got yet. I definitely need a schedule made.
And so this is my first year cooking Christmas dinner for four possibly five (the two dogs are counted as one person and my boyfriend may be joining us as well) and I’m absolutely terrified. But I’m determined. I will have Christmas dinner in my own house even if it kills me. Which I suspect it probably will.
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