The Christmas Table
This year I am offering both sides of the discussion around what makes a Christmas table such a magical thing. My husband Martin starts off, relieved that as a chef he can take the day off!
Chef Martin says:
I have managed to avoid Christmas turkey cooking one more time. We are spending Christmas with friends and the plan is to ski all day and then just have a nice warm stew for dinner. Since I spend many of my days planning festive dinners for others, I am fine with not having a big feast to work on at Christmas. If you want tips for your turkey cooking adventure, you can check out a guest post I have on Kristin's Happy Gourmand blog called Let's Talk Turkey.
As a kid, turkey was always the bird of choice for my mom. I will not tell you all the details as she may read this column, but let’s just say turkey was not her best dish. Lasagna, meatloaf and… lasagna and meatloaf were the best meals she did when I was a kid. I don’t have great memories of juicy, succulent, perfectly cooked turkeys, instead I have memories of children being very polite and telling Mom what she deserved to hear, which was thank you for a great meal. When someone spends a whole day cooking a meal, you have to show appreciation; lie if you have to, but do show enjoyment and admiration. I do have many memories of Christmas dinners at home, but mostly about how much fun we had together as a family. I know that all family members have what is referred to these days as “baggage”, but Christmas is not the time to settle your quarrels. It’s more the time to hold each other and be happy that you made it one more year.
So many people have no one to share a bad turkey with that I feel grateful to have my my friends and family to share my Christmas meal whether it turns out good or not. If you have the chance to take an extra person in for Christmas dinner, or give some of your time to the local shelters, or even take a pie to someone you know will be alone on Christmas Day please do it, it’s worth it.
Christmas is my favourite time of year, and Christmas dinner seems to epitomize the whole festive season: the food and drink and best of all, the company. Just think - at what other time of year can you argue about whether or not the dressing should be traditional or adventurous, or agonize over which tablecloth would look nicer, and which serving pieces to put out to make sure Aunt So-and-so sees the gift you never otherwise use! (Okay, maybe in the closest families that happens every Sunday, but it seems most of the other days of the year we are far too busy to spend that much time on dinner.) On that point I agree with the Chef – be grateful you have those people you care about enough to argue with, and toast their good health before you dive into that sumptuous dinner.
As far as the menu goes, I have to admit I have always been one who liked to “upset the apple cart" by trying to suggest some new (or old) twist on the Christmas dinner. I wanted to try goose after having read Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol”, finding out that was the traditional bird of Victorian Christmas tables. I always wondered what Brussels sprouts tasted like and figured they couldn’t really be as bad as my Dad said. And who wouldn’t marvel at the idea of marshmallows at the dinner table, all toasted over a dish of sweet potatoes! Then there was the stuffing. This was a topic that was hotly discussed by my parents, as my Mom read more cooking magazines and my Dad pined for the “good old days” when celery and sage were all it needed. (Years later, he would be the one saying why hadn’t we added walnuts or used cornbread earlier!) But if you ask me what I remember about Christmas dinner, it is not the specific menu items but rather that warm and fuzzy feeling that followed sampling them all.
I for one don’t think it was merely the tryptophan that made me groggy and light-headed at Christmas; it was more that sense of euphoria that comes over you when you immerse yourself in the spirit of Christmas. If you truly believe in the essence of Christmas then as you let it into your heart and take active part in the festivities and the giving, you cannot help but feel better yourself. Children know this intuitively, and it is only as our hearts harden if we don’t practice such things that we lose sight of the true meaning of this holiday. Christmas is not for children, but for the child that lies within us all, hoping for a chance to believe in something pure and good, and listening for that magic signal which says that something exists.
So if you need a dose of “A Wonderful Life” or “The Polar Express” before Christmas dinner to get you in full gear, go right ahead. When you sit down to dinner, cherish the meal, and those around you, and of course the cook who made it possible. It is of great importance to take Christmas to heart, for if you do it right, it just might stay with you until next year. Wouldn’t that make the world a wonderful place?
As Tiny Tim said so long ago, “God Bless us every one.” Merry Christmas from our table to yours.
Read more Happy Gourmand articles
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- Red carpets and champagne Mar 1
- Sounds, smells and tastes Feb 22
- De-stress at dinner...meals on vacation Feb 15
- Why does food taste better on holidays? Feb 8
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- Chicken soup, orange juice and hot tea Jan 25
- In the heat of the moment Jan 18
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