I have just confirmed my guests for the Christmas eve dinner I’m cooking this year: my two sons, and a girlfriend of the oldest, my boyfriend and a friend of his, and a friend of mine who is apart from her partner this year: seven people around my little table: I can almost imagine that already…all of us sitting at a table covered with white linen, candlelight cast over animated faces, lively conversation fuelled no doubt by the sheer pleasure of sharing a celebratory meal with loved ones, and somewhat by sparkling wine which we will have as an aperitif with a side of smoked salmon and crusty brown bread or maybe blini (undecided)…. I don’t like elaborate, over the top Christmas table decorations, but I will use special charger plates and maybe a scattering of silver baubles and always white candles…for this occasion maybe in crystal candlesticks…I have an odd selection of those…

Last year I took on the challenge of cooking a turducken! Turducken, for the uninitiated, is a massive roast of a duck inside a chicken inside a turkey, the various cavities filled with a stuffing of your choice and then sewn up: I kept the wingbones and the legbones in the turkey to give the final dish some shape, though it all fell apart a little lifting it out of the roasting tray. Myself and my son’s girlfriend stood in my kitchen from early on the day before Christmas, deboning the chicken and the duck and the turkey, making the stuffing: quite a task, and quite a beast(as a friend recently called it) of a dish! It was the first year that this son had resumed eating meat, after being vegetarian for almost 9 years, so this was back to eating meat with a bang, not a whimper for him! I used to make a fantastic mushroom Wellington from The Cranks Bible: highly recommended as a festive dish for your vegetarian and non-vegetarian friends alike.

As children we tended to have a very ordinary Christmas eve dinners, with all the special Christmas dishes reserved for lunch the next day… depending on where we spent the holidays. My grandmom on my dad’s side loved presenting us with a Christmas lunch: her house decorated with paper streamers and silver bells amongst the glass wind chimes(which she loved) on her stoep… the lunch table groaning with at least three meat dishes, her best crockery set on her best table linen, fancy Christmas crackers on each plate, Christmas pudding steamed in a cloth the previous day on the sideboard with the drizzle of white icing and the obligatory plastic mistletoe stuck in the pointy top of the pudding, and me hoping always that I would get the coin dropped into the batter before cooking it…

I used to sneak into the dining room, picking up the crackers and trying to peep into them to see which one had the ring!! Needless to say I really coveted that with my little girl’s heart!

It was obligatory to wear the paper crowns at her Christmas lunch table…. A tradition which I had tried to continue but which my sons soon dismissed as rather silly…

I prefer Christmas eve dinners to lunch on the day itself…. the flickering of fairy lights lighting up the lounge: I usually have a wire art tree draped with lights and decorations: last year though I had three aloes in pots in a row with the fairy lights draped around them and baubles scattered in the pots: an African touch despite the very American main dish! The evening is usually cooler too… much nicer…

Today I will at last, put up my Christmas tree…. I am not religious, but some of that childlike awe and excitement around Christmas is always evoked for me when I set up a tree…..

And now that I have finalised the guest list, my next list will be the food list: I will sit down here later today, my fountain pen in hand and write out the menu first, and then from there compile the To Get list… I’m sure to post again about what I will cook for Christmas this year!

But here, with a bit of nostalgia(since I have moved away from that house, which I loved since then), are before and after pics of last year’s Christmas eve dinner….

 

 

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