In an attempt to bring harmony to our festive dinner tables, Food & Drink Editor Dylan Tuck explains the best (and worst) components of the divisive Christmas Day Dinner
Christmas. The time of year where you can eat your own body weight in chocolate: a time where the days are blurred, and it matters not whether it’s a Monday or Thursday: where TV specials slap on the festive tinsel, the same old classic tunes get whacked up to eleven, and your “visiting” family won’t seem to do one. It’s a wonderful time of year, I’m sure we can all agree on that.
What is often harder to agree on, however, is a certain dinner that’s served up on Christmas Day – or at the many, wine-guzzling work do’s you’ll end up at before then. That’s right, I’m talking the big ol’ Crimbo dinner. For some reason, a lot of us can’t seem to agree on what does or doesn’t deserve a rightful place on this delicious plate of pure, stodgy goodness – Tesco even dedicated the entirety of their light-hearted Christmas ad this year to the topic of divided Christmassy opinions. So, for the sake of the entire United Kingdom during a period of argumentative turmoil, I’ll attempt to form a festive opinion we can all agree on.
First of all, let’s tackle the, err, not-so-big elephant in the room: sprouts. Nothing seems to part the family like Moses to the Red Sea than the topic of sprouts. I’m sure we’ve all been sat round the table on a Christmas afternoon, when an over-keen family member raises a bowl of tiny cabbages with a semi-sarcastic smile and begs the question; “sprouts anyone?”, cutting the room in half more than a conversation on Brexit. The little green fellas are natures’ Marmite, loved by many and cried about by thousands of children forced to eat them every December 25. Sprouts are infamous, and actually quite nutritiously fabulous, being packed full of more vitamin C than our other seasonal friend, the orange. And, when they’re not over-boiled to shit by your mum and left to smell like three-week old eggs, these beauties prove to be the quintessential Christmas Day veg: irreplaceable and unequivocally loved and loathed without the land. But don’t be hater; boil ‘em, chuck on a generous chunk of butter, and stick them right on your plate. Lovely.
Next up for a grilling (not literally, I’m not a culinary animal) is spuds. Now, again, this is another segment of the dinner that seems to grind people’s gears, with everyone honestly believing that their roasties are the best in the land. At the risk of sounding like everyone’s favourite food-cancelling chef Jamie Oliver, roast potatoes, particularly at this wonderful time of the year, have got to be crispy on the outside, a delicate crunch upon the first bite, and deliciously fluffy in the middle – anything less is, quite frankly, a disgrace. Want to make it posher? Throw on a sprig of rosemary, I won’t judge, just make sure these beauties get the most care of all – constantly relying on careful turning in a plentiful amount of oil, this is a food of patience to receive its most worthwhile rewards. But, at the end, when the golden treasures are loaded up for serving, they’re almost always the first to go, and never, ever are enough made to survive the entire meal untouched. What would a roast be, let alone a Christmas day dinner, without roasties? Nothing, that’s what.
A lot of variation comes at the next point of conversation, for turkey is the obvious choice for most as the centerpiece of Christmas day food, while others tend to opt for chicken, duck, goose – pretty much any poor little bird that’s been killed for your palette. Regardless of my now quite obvious vegetarian standpoint, I’m going to briefly explain why turkey is a shite plate-filler. When I used to eat meat, I always noticed how the frivolities of Christmas Day were somewhat put on hold to endure the driest of all food in the land, cooked to cremation and clogging the throat – in short, eating turkey was just a bad experience. I won’t blame it on my Grandma’s cooking either (she makes the best fruit cake you’ll ever eat, honestly), as I had turkey from outside of her kitchen, in restaurants or other dinners with family and friends – it’s drier than downing a pint of ground black pepper, and probably less enjoyable too. There are better meats out there (not that I endorse them, meat is bad, folks), and if you’re just eating turkey for the sake of tradition instead of flavor, then maybe ditch the dry and treat yourself to something better – it is Christmas, y’know?
Finally, we reach the crux of the day, the mighty monster covered in brandy and literally set on bloody fire: the truly wonderful Christmas Pud. It’s like a fruity, boozy, weird filled-bowl-shaped treat of delicious goodness that K.O’s you right after you thought you could eat no more. It happens every year, the human stomach defies all logic and physics for one afternoon, taking in roughly about 15 times what it normally would AND STILL finds room for the fruity boi at the end. You can’t skip it, no matter how much you think you can’t finish it all – you can, and you will. Whether you prefer your challenge soaked in custard, cream or the seasonal favourite of brandy butter (because Christmas just requires alcohol in absolutely everything), it doesn’t matter, the importance is in the pudding, not the topping. None of this having chocolate cake or any other unfitting substitute – it’s the pud, the whole pud, and nothing but the pud. Then you’ve made it, the meal is done, completed, finito. Well done everyone, we made it. Now, lie down on the sofa, pass out, and miss the episode of Doctor Who you’ve been waiting all day for.
Okay, upon reflection, perhaps not everyone will agree with my opinions, but in the wise words of Tesco’s Christmas Advert, “it’s Christmas: anything goes”.