Christmas cooking shows are always good for a laugh.
Whether it’s Nigella winking seductively while fondling her baubles and scoffing panettone or Jamie Oliver gurning while shoving a fistful of sausage up a goose’s nethers, I can’t get enough.
But let’s get real; the average TV chef’s Christmas is nothing like ours. Sure, we might knock up some Nigel Slater sausage rolls, or Jamie’s ridiculously baroque gravy, but for the most part we’re just voyeurs; perving on the Christmas we could have, if only we were super-talented millionaire chefs with several thousands of pounds worth of specialist equipment and all the time in the world.
So this is Christmas…
As I dance round the kitchen to the unsung Christmas power-tune that is Please Come Home For Christmas by Jon Bon Jovi while boiling my second ham of the season, it brings to mind some more personal flavours of Christmas.
Some of them are good (Merry Christmas Everyone, Slade), some average (Step Into Christmas, Elton John) and some soul crushingly dire (Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time, Paul McCartney). But every single one is a part of Christmas for me:
Quality Street vs Roses. It’s like Ali vs Frasier, Blur vs Oasis, Alien vs Predator. Every home has their allegiance. My loyalty will forever belong to Quality Street, at least partially because they realised in the 90s that no-one likes coffee creams and stopped making them.
It’s not Christmas Day until you’ve pre-breakfasted on a Noisette Triangle or two while waiting for your bacon sarnie. But you can keep the fruit creams; fuck that noise.
The accompaniment to every Christmas dinner of my life up until 2012 when I finally convinced my parents to buy some real bubbly.
For the uninitiated/the middle class, Lambrusco is essentially Lambrini in a party frock. Acrid, vinegary tones of cat urine with an aftertaste of fermented battery acid. And yet… I kinda miss it. Grudgingly downing Lambrusco in as few sips as possible from the posh glasses was a Christmas ritual up there with arguing with my dad for nicking the last caramel cup out of the Quality Street.
Advent calendar chocolate/chocolate coins
Mix 1 part grit to 2 parts cocoa factory floor sweepings. Blend with slightly off UHT milk and voila. But despite being a poor excuse for chocolate, as a kid nothing was more exciting than a little net bag of those gold coins – except troughing a week’s worth of advent calendar chocs at your Nan’s house on a Friday night.
Less of a condiment, more of a chemical weapon, nothing screams ‘Christmas Eve buffet’ quite like piccalilli. Pickled onions, gherkins and vast, incongruous chunks of cauliflower floating in a luminous yellow noxiously mustardy gloop.
Doesn’t sound great does it? But as soon as you whack it on a bit of turkey in a bap (white, gluttonously buttered, obvs.), magic happens. for bonus points, go Branston pickle on the bottom, top it with turkey, then have a splodge of piccalilli on top. Magic. And heartburn. All of the heartburn.
Squirty cream will forever be my topping of choice on Christmas pudding. It doesn’t look, taste or smell like cream, but my heart will always belong to an aerosol can of Anchor. Said pudding should be shop-bought and microwaved until reaching 5,779 degrees kelvin (i.e. 1 degree hotter than the surface of the sun), so that it turns the squirty cream into a kind of dairy-based plasma on contact.
Continue adding squirty cream from the can fire-extinguisher style until the pud (which no-one really likes if we’re honest) reaches an edible temperature. Devour in 3-4 bites and immediately feel too sick to help with dishes.
Since about 1988 I’ve tucked into a slice of Walls Vienetta at about 3pm on Boxing Day afternoon (occasional ill advised dabbling in frozen black forest gateau notwithstanding).
Synthetic, virtually tasteless folds of vanilla ice-cream meet weird single-molecule wafers of ‘chocolate’ to make the eighties-est dessert ever conceived. It’s the dessert of the near-future, the sort of thing people would have for afters in Blade Runner.
It’s refreshing that a) you can still buy one, and b) that there’s no pretense that they’re in any way artisanal or hand-made – Vienettas are clearly, proudly extruded in a single piece from some vast automated Play-Doh fun factory style machine. And I bloody love them for it.
Again, why exactly is Turkish Delight festive?! Regardless, the stuff is a bit like Guns N Roses for me; I love it, but I can see it’s many, many glaring flaws. e.g. Turkish Delight basically tastes like soap/60% of Use Your Illusion is utter wank.
Still, I’m a sucker for the stuff, at least until I get so covered in icing sugar I look like I’m off to a fancy dress party as post-coke-breakdown Tony Montana.
Dates will forever remind me of my Grandad. Every year he’d get a packet of the vile little buggers and chomp his way through them despite his complete lack of teeth. I could never pluck up the courage to try the things as a kid – they looked too much like beetle innards.
I will never know why they’re associated with Christmas – I mean, what’s more festive than a semi-gelatinous blob of dark matter that looks like xenomorph poop? Fair play for taking out that Nazi monkey in Raiders of the Lost Ark though.