Thursday, 26 December 2013

Christmas Dinner - Cambridgeshire

I descended the stairs slowly, head ringing from the night before, mouth dry as a burnt piece of sandpaper. Gripping the banister tightly, I attempted to move at a steady pace, keeping my stomach level. This was Christmas morning, just. The oven, having been turned on six hours ago, glowed red both inside and out, the bird within a deep golden brown, but still several hours from preventing a journey to A&E. The kitchen table did little to comfort my bleary eyes, strewn as it was with armfuls of coloured wrapping paper. The pile only grew as I peeled open the welcome sights of new clothes and the unwelcome sight of whiskey and beer. I knew then that this would be a long day.

After a short stroll around the neighbourhood, the demolition of salmon on bread, and no fewer than three mumbled conversations with Sausage Charlie about the timings of lunch, it arrived. A plateful of Christmas' finest. A golden turkey that had never heard the name Bernard, two different stuffings, broccoli, carrots, parsnips as tough as nails, crispy roasts, bread sauce, and shredded sprouts with bacon, so burnt that the taste had vanished, thankfully. A friend said very recently that turkey is one of the most overrated foods. Like watching football in the pub; the idea is exciting, the reality disappointing. Granted, turkey lacks flavour and if left in the furnace too long can be dry, but only a fool measures this meal on the meat alone. The flavour of Christmas lunch runs from the four corners of the plate. Salt from the bacon, sweet from the parsnips, a richness from the gravy, and the disgusting goodness of the sprouts. It's a perfect harmony of flavours, designed to teach the world to sing.

And no sooner had it started, than it finished. Christmas lunch is an atom bomb of a meal: the hours spent in preparation destroyed in a fraction of the time - about fifteen minutes to be precise. The plates are wiped clean, the special cutlery only seen at Christmas rinsed, washed, and put back in the cupboard for next year. Chocolates are taken from the tree, coffee is brewed, and we all slump on the sofa accompanied by the dulcet tones of Frank Sinatra followed by Massive Attack. A classic Christmas atmosphere.

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