The perfect holiday table

Okay, we're on the home stretch to Christmas, so I thought it was time to make sure you had all the crucial information for the big day. 

We've talked about Christmas spirit, and traditions, and some of the treats . . . now we get down to the Christmas dinner itself. I'm here to fill you in on important details, so get your notepad ready.

I won't presume to tell you how to stuff the turkey, or make the gravy just right, or what to add to the mashed potatoes; all those things should happen according to your plan, whether it is family tradition, or creating something entirely new. Even if the tradition is lumpy mashed potatoes, with the right sense of humour and a lot of love, that can be the stuff of fond holiday memories.

Here’s my quick-guide so you don't make any unforgivable mistakes on your holiday table:

First up, I'd like to remove the confusion around some similar vegetables that appear on the table. Don't fall into the trap of thinking you can be indiscriminate - choose the right veggie.

   yams vs. sweet potatoes
Chances are, you don't want to serve real yams at your Christmas table. Sweet potatoes are what we almost always see at the stores, coming in various colours from yellow to orange. The lighter varieties tend to be firmer even after cooking, and the orange ones are softer and creamier when cooked. Yams are a different family of vegetable altogether, being a more rough-looking root with a more stringy white flesh, possibly tinged with red or purple. They are cooked in the Caribbean and Africa, where they are indigenous plants. Sometimes stores will label sweet potatoes as yams, so just check the colour and buy the one with the texture you want.

   turnips vs. rutabagas
Here is another pitfall many people fall into, especially as these two vegetables can also be labelled in a confusing manner. Rutabagas are sometimes called "yellow turnips" but they are in fact a cross between a turnip and a cabbage. They are between a beet and a cabbage in size, and golden in colour. Rutabagas are often roasted to soften them and sweeten their flavour, or peeled and cooked with potatoes for mashing. Turnips tend to be smaller and more tender; they can be sauteed, pickled or even served in salads. Turnips are white, with the top showing a bit of purple or green. 

   shallots vs. onions
This comparison is a bit closer, with less of a dramatic difference, but they do each have their advantages. Shallots are smaller than onions, with browner skins and more of a tapered shape. They are the preferred vegetable to use raw in recipes, as they can lose their flavour if cooked very long. Even raw, shallots are not as crunchy as onions and not as pungent. Both vegetables are shown to aid in lowering blood pressure, shallots are also full of anti-oxidants and numerous vitamins and minerals. They do have almost twice the calories of onions, but then we don't tend to eat either in large amounts, do we?

Secondly, I have a simple tip for you: Don't serve too much gravy on the table unless you use a thermos. Hot gravy is the one thing that can rejuvenate the cooled-off food that dresses the holiday table. Those dishes served family-style look fantastic, but they don't usually hold the heat much. Do everyone a favour and refill the boat with hot gravy when you go for seconds. You'll be happy you did.

Last of all, and this is about what comes first, remember that Christmas is the best time of year to be 'all in'. So, if you put crackers on the table, that means everyone needs to wear the funny hats, and read the jokes or riddles, and check out the toys. If you don't think the folks around your table can do that wholeheartedly, then don't put them under pressure. Come up with some other routine if you like, but make it one everyone will embrace.

Okay, I said last of all, but I have one more thing: Take the time to toast your good fortune, being around a table with loved ones. Say a prayer or kind word for those less fortunate, and then prepare to enjoy your fabulous meal.

May your holiday be filled with joy and love. Happy Christmas to all!

More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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