My no-turkey, no-drama recipe for making every christmas lunch the best christmas lunch ever
It’s not just about the food, it’s about the people.
I love Christmas; always have. I particularly love to have Christmas at home, with 12 or more people, a table groaning with food, and those people groaning with appreciation at the end of the meal.
And please, don’t expect turkey. I am not a bland bird, nor do I permit them at my festive table.
I grew up eating roast lamb and gammon for Christmas (I also have vague memories of something called a Cornish hen) so if you come to my house, you will get those two things every year – with sides of roast potatoes, cauliflower cheese, carrots, peas and gravy.
Sometimes I add extra veggies or a starter, but the core menu stays the same. And dessert is always homemade Christmas pudding, trifle (but not with jelly, eeuw) and a bûche de Noël, aka a Yule log.
As I said, the guests groan afterwards. And I sweat buckets. Cooking a hot meal in December in the heat of a Johannesburg summer is not for the fainthearted, but it’s worth it. It makes me happy.
The other thing I don’t permit at my festive table is drama. I stave off a large part of that by adopting a “waifs and strays” approach to the guest list.
Family who are around are included, and then so is anyone who might be alone for Christmas or need somewhere to go.
And some of the best Christmases I can recall have been a table full of people from all different aspects of my life who have never met each other, and who have a merry old time regardless.
You see, Christmas for me is not about gifts or shopping or any of those commercial things (although I will confess to a love of all things kitsch and Christmassy when it comes to décor).
For me, it’s about people and love and togetherness. And nothing brings those things together for me like a meal shared. Besides, I love to feed people, so it just ticks all the boxes for me.
But there’s an added bonus. I watch all the social media posts about how to deal with your family during holiday meals, and I can honestly say that Christmas at my house has very seldom contained any drama whatsoever.
Because what happens – and I confess this may be sneaky of me – is that because there are strangers at the table, the drunk uncle, the dramatic cousin and the foul-mouthed sibling tend to be on their best behaviour.
There’s very little hauling out of dirty laundry, or airing of decades-long grudges. There might be some subtle digs here and there, but overall, everyone behaves.
They eat, they groan, they eat seconds, they groan some more, and then they manage to find some space for dessert, after which there is more groaning. Some have even fallen asleep on the couch. And then they help with the clean-up!
But for me, the very best part is how appreciative those additional friends are of being included; how much fun they have, and how they go home a little less grinchy and a little more inclined to embrace peace on earth and goodwill to all people (to modernise the Good Book slightly).
That makes my heart happy. That makes every bead of sweat worthwhile. I like to think it’s a small way that I can bring joy to the world.