No reckoning to be had. Not a reckon in sight. Christmas was the best we’ve had in ages in spite of one or two hiccups. The aged and infirm relatives rescue service was still going strong alongside normal life right up to Christmas eve. Or is that what our ‘normal life’ has become? Clearly there is a stage of life thing going on here, sandwiched neatly between parents, aunts and uncles in need of more support and grandchildren filling our lives with laughter and reminding us that yes, we can still do fun.
So the run up to Christmas was full-on (sorry, work was fitted in somewhere, also) but at the same time strangely calm. I found myself clambering around in ditches and hedges the morning before everyone arrived, madly spray painting branches and ivy and stuffing them into large vessels adding green and bronze baubles that were skidding round the bottom of the decorations box. Said box had been retrieved from the loft in full view of 2 year old grandson ‘wotyoudouptherenamma’? ‘Getting something out of the loft darling’. ‘Monty elp’. ‘ No darling, dont come up the ladder……………..’ Just like his uncle who copied his father all those years ago, poking his head through the upper bathroom window, smiling ‘hello mummy, me up a big top ladder’. Aged 3. Heart attack avoided, grandson only reached rung three by the time Namma descended from the loft.
Made mince pies with mincemeat heavy with apple, walnuts and brandy. My favourite mix. But there is something in me that, when life could be simple, I always choose at the last minute to make it complicated. David had already left the house to collect my mother and the mountain of extraneous and inconsequential baggage that accompanies her with every visit, when I decided we needed more mince pies. Believe me when I say that I rarely make pastry. Life is just too short and all butter puff and sweet shortcrust or filo are all there in the supermarket just waiting to be used. My first mistake was taking puff pastry out of the freezer instead of sweet shortcrust. The second was deciding to make not just ordinary sized ones but also dinky little bite sized ones with meringue on top. Just showing off I suppose. Now the latter was not a bad decision (dinky mice pies, not showing off) but next time I would probably make the dinky ones as one would a jam tart and pop a tiny meringue on top afterwards. I put the meringue on top of the mincemeat and to be honest. It didn’t work. Too much heat and steam going on I think. Mother came in and the first thing she said was what’s that horrible smell……. by the way I bought you some Mr Kipling mince pies darling.
Christmas lunch was a fine affair but a good hour and a half late. Said grandson has a penchant for pressing buttons on electronic items – TV, DVD, Wi, oven. Yes bless him he had set the automatic timer so although the goose went into the oven fine (well, after Katie bravely cleaved off the ends of its plump legs in a classic ‘the goose wont fit in the oven’ sketch, at which point everyone in the house piled into the kitchen and offered an opinion. And the only answer was drastic amputation). However, once it finally went into the oven, the oven then turned itself off without telling me, half an hour later. And went unnoticed for another hour.
After much twiddling and fiddling, and finding the oven instructions tucked in the back of a filing cabinet somewhere, David reinstated the settings and we were off. Again. In the race to get the bird cooked this century I whacked up the oven to full blast but then had another glass of fizz. Then the smoke alarm went off. Goosey, in getting hot, had stretched her already shortened legs out and they hung over the edge of the roasting pan dripping molten fat onto the bottom of the oven. Flashpoint! Dense blue smoke filled the kitchen, the hall, the sitting room. William and I attended to the bird with damp cloths knotted over our mouths, then escaped to the drive followed by billowing smoke where we collapsed helpless with laughter, alcohol and smoke inhalation against the garage door. Venturing back in the kitchen we turned the oven off again and had to clean it. Oven back on we had a third attempt to cook the blessed bird which, of course, needed constant attention because geese naturally give off a lot of gorgeous fat. For those roast potatoes and parsnips.
Suffice it to say that eventually it all turned out ok. In fact my mother didn’t even notice anything had happened. But then she’d had three glasses of sweet sherry and was engaging everyone in the Daily Mail crossword from the previous day. ‘Five letters, christmas bird, and guardian of the farmyard, begins with G’. ‘Goose, mother!’
A little tale about stuffing – I ought to confess now that I had never cooked a goose until this Christmas. I was going to do Laughton stuffing but then consulted Nigella, who had consulted Simon Hodgkinson who had consulted an Irish chef. And recommended stuffing the bird with mashed potato and apple. Mashed potato and apple? I went for further consultation to Darina Allen and she said the same. Mashed potato and apple. Oh ye of little faith! Believe me it was divine. I made it the day before so it was stone cold before I stuffed the bird Christmas morning.
So the roast bird and its sumptuous velvety stuffing was consumed with along with all you would expect, roast potatoes and parsnips, red cabbage (made the day before), dark green cabbage, carrots with caraway and lemon, superb gravy a very tart apple sauce.
Pudding was a take on Nigel Slater’s lemon parfait, or raspberry vodka jellies. A complete success.
Boxing Day was a simple affair with no disasters. Never can go wrong with my ham in Coca Cola with cinammon, orange and molasses.