Grit Doctor: Turkey is a travesty, so why bother?
If you do insist on cooking everything from scratch, prepare to be stressed and suck it up
Roasting a turkey, which we are not used to doing, is the source of a lot of the stress on Christmas Day. Don’t do it!
Q: Dear Grit Doctor, please tell me how you you deal with all the stress? On Christmas day I mean. Tell me you are like the rest of us, and will be in a blind panic about the turkey roast and the rest? Sharon
A: Hell yeah, my Christmas is just as stressful as yours Sharon. In fact I can feel the stress right now coursing through my veins as I contemplate everything I’ve still got left to do.
My main stress-reducing tactic over Christmas is to pare things right down. I think cooking Brussels sprouts and Christmas pudding and roasting a turkey, which we are not used to doing, is the source of a lot of the stress. Much easier to cook a tried and tested family favourite for lunch that you’ve made so many times before you can cook it blindfold, right? So, with that in mind, my view is that Christmas works much better when the person in charge of the cooking decides which traditions to adopt and is free to drop those that they don’t, irrespective of what anyone else wants. Personally, I think turkey is a travesty, we don’t eat this bird at any other time of time of the year so why bother now on this most special of days?
In my book, Christmas is about having the most delicious meal possible, and for us that will be rib of beef with roast potatoes and possibly celeriac puree (this has the advantage that it can be done in advance and just heated up beforehand), spinach, green beans and a rich beefy gravy. That is my idea of food heaven. Beef is expensive, yes, but I reckon we make a saving cutting out all those accoutrements that are essential to make turkey palatable (cranberry, bread sauce, chutneys, stuffings) and a thousand multi-coloured vegetables.
I also love a curry, so will be making my version of a beef rendang with the leftovers on December 26th. I hate making puddings so mum is making a trifle and she bring it with her. There will be no Christmas pudding either because I think it is revolting. I am not going to pander to the tastes of all my guests, which means my dad and father-in-law won’t get Christmas pudding, but I guarantee after my beef and cheese board, they won’t miss it.
Whatever you are planning to cook, try to stick to cooking a few things you know you can do really well and don’t – whatever you do – apologise for failing to cook your great aunt her favourite Brussels sprouts if the smell of cooking them makes you feel sick. Don’t be a martyr to other people’s whims. They are not cooking and sweating blood and tears over it.
When they host Christmas dinner, they can have all the Brussels sprouts they want. If it means that much to them, they can bring them round! Do encourage this bring-your-own-vibe for particularly fickle guests. I was at a vegetarian wedding recently and found it hilarious when the man on my left whipped out a packet of salami from his pocket and artfully disguised pieces all over his plate of delicious veggies.
Of course, many of you will be much less selfish than me and are to be applauded for so being. If you are a domestic goddess type who prides herself on perfect turkey basting techniques and home made chestnut stuffing, that’s fine, but prepare to be very stressed and suck it up. No one made you do this, so no whinging about it either. Anything that can be prepared in advance, must be prepared in advance. Anything that you can to do without, go without. Ask yourself if it is really necessary to make the cranberry sauce from scratch or if that time might be better spent sat down with your great aunt having a giggle together. If you are genuinely someone who makes their cranberry sauce (I had meant it as a euphemism) I really hope it’s already made. Otherwise your stress levels will be through the roof by midday. And for the love of God, lay the table tonight.
It goes without saying that if you can get out for a run on Christmas morning before Mass, DO IT. This has to be the most delicious treat of the day, time stolen for yourself on a day given over to others, to reflect and celebrate another year passing, and critically, to calm down before having to spend the next few hours slaving over a hot stove.
The key is to celebrate and to make it special, but how you chose to interpret that is a matter for you. Christmas is all about the atmosphere you can generate on the day for your kids and family and that boils down to being in as relaxed and fun a mood as you possibly can be, and sustaining it for the duration. For the duration my friends.
The Grit Doctor says...
For those of you who, like me, are turkey-traumatised and are wondering why on earth you are still eating this bird, just say no.