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In the middle of a Wednesday, I found myself yesterday having a glass of shiraz and a slice of shop-bought stollen. And I thought: I am so ready for the holidays.

I’m not quite on holiday yet: three days of working to go until I close the rooms’ door behind me at the end of another year of being a therapist, and turn my attention to my Xmas lunch menu plan. I saw an article just the other day of therapists in the US using cooking classes as therapy, and a friend of mine commented recently that being a shrink is not too far removed from being a cook; at least as a metaphor. I like that.

“Cooking my life”. I could use it as a title to a memoir based on these posts, with a nod to Edward Espe Brown, the Buddhist monk’s book: How to cook your life, and the documentary by the same name. Worth a watch, btw.

So it’s almost xmas again. This year I am cooking for 16 people, some family, some friends, but my table will be sans sons. None of the three grown-up sons we have between my husband and I are around this year: my oldest son is in China, my youngest has just left a week ago to run a brasserie in Cape Town: his father bought it, for him to manage, and my stepson is going to Grahamstown to visit his mom and stepfather.

Since I discovered sumac in Johannesburg, I have not wavered from my intention to cook middle eastern dishes as often as I can. And yesterday(before the shiraz and stollen) I went to my favourite butcher to order 4 deboned shoulders of karoo lamb, which I intend to slow cook with a baharat spice rub and orange rind and lots of garlic. And do a saffron infused persian jewelled rice with cranberries in stead of raisins, and a big chopped salad with sumac liberally strewn(as Nigella would say!).

I have asked my one sister-in-law to bring dessert: Pears in saffron and cardamom wine syrup, and the other a heap of spicy meatballs. Another guest will bring hoummous, I’ll do a smoky babaganoush and offer fresh turkish flatbread with those as starters with lots and lots of sparkling wine. I may make a halva ice cream “cake”: Jane-Ann Hobbs, the well known South African foodie and food writer offered a recipe with nougat which is easily adjusted for halva, and it can add a lovely creamy foil for the tart pears.

I did not want to follow the more recent tradition of family xmases where everyone brings a dish, almost like potluck, with five or more different meat dishes and salads: I’ve never really liked that very much. Too much food, too many conflicting flavours. Just too much. I don’t mind cooking almost everything myself. And I hope my sisters-in-law did not mind being asked to bring something specific, and the recipe that followed it per email!(they did ask!)

So, I think I have it covered. A long table outside in the shade. Menu more or less finalised. Decorations minimal, but festive. No tinsel though. Maybe fairy lights lengthways on the table, some succulents in old pomodoro tins, linen napkins…and did I say? Lots and lots of sparkling wine. Some sadness after my second or third glass no doubt: missing my sons, missing my dad, missing my mother and her xmas tables. Yet all the while celebrating the start of a new era in my life: sons far away forever except for anticipated visits. No grandchildren to spend holidays with. But maybe time and space to write that book.Yes. In fact, I am changing my blog title to exactly that: “Cooking my life”.