We’ve talked about it for years and have at last come to a family consensus: no gifts for grownups anymore. Nothing for me, nothing for her, nowt for Mum or Dad, nor in-laws, or friends. The wee ones won’t miss out, of course, but for the rest of us, nada. And might I say a resounding thank God for that! I don’t mean to sound doer and miserly, but enough with the cult of ‘stuff’.
What do any of us (you included) really Need? Compared to the vast majority of people who have ever lived, we here in lovely, far New Zealand, live it up like royalty. Even the most underprivileged families (of which there many) are infinitely better off than their counterparts in the developing world. Cold comfort, I know, but my point is that none of us here really knows what need is, or at least we should not need to know…
We know a lot about Want though. Not content with peace and plenty, we still Want the world. Few of us here need ever worry about where the next meal will come from, or if our children will survive the winter – so instead, we worry about which brand of kitchen mixer is best, who makes the best ciabatta and if it’s fair of Sky to charge extra for SoHo (probably not, but totally worth it BTW). We have all we actually need, now we just Want distractions. And with that line of vulgarity in mind, coupled with a hereditary loathing of shopping, my family is quite gleefully foregoing gifts, for all but the bairns from here on in.
However, it’s still Christmas, and as such we need to eat a lot of very fine things. Yes, perhaps this undermines our anti-consumerist stance, but you know what? I don’t care. Food matters a great deal in my family, and as a motley crew of mostly atheists, Christmas is all about family to us. We show our love through our cooking; it’s our common ground and our strongest thread. Food on the big day –as a social glue and gesture of affection – matters more to us than any official ‘reason for the season’.
It turns out too, that without the stress and financial burden of gift shopping, the whole menu design process is a genuine delight. We’ve agreed on a streamlined list of things we love, but haven’t (yet) lost our heads.
Although we’ve dispensed with turkeys and salmon this year in favour only ham, it is truly a princely piece. The huge, mahogany-toned free range half buttock is occupying a large portion of my fridge at present, taunting me with its potential. It shall be succulent, sweet, sticky and fine. I’m consumed by thoughts of so many gluey, singed chef’s perks…
There will be salads too, but only a brace this year (rather than our usual sprawling ensemble), one of roast vegetables slicked with homemade pesto and fresh mayonnaise, the other, Cos lettuce with a fiercely garlic-laden vinaigrette and oven-baked sour dough croutons. Dessert is to be but one vast tiramisu. Handmade, naturally, and sodden with marsala and real espresso. Just as it should be.
There will be wine, but not too much. Diurnal drunkenness just isn’t pretty, nor nocturnal either for that matter.
And then there are all those finishing touches: the sweet little morsels of tradition; mince pies (with no lack of suet and a great deal of brandy butter), stollen, panetonne, some single serve trifles. perhaps. Making these things puts me more in mind and spirit of Christmas than any amount of tree decorating. Really must get on to the tree though…
I’m sure someone will bring chocolates, cherries, fresh berries and cream. Someone always does. We’ll eat, laugh, talk, snooze, rouse and start again. It will be a languid affair and people will come and go as-and-when they please. No rules, no formality.
In the evening, when everyone has drifted off, we’ll wander down to the Village, and soak up the strange feeling of desolation that settles over shopping places during the holidays.
Altogether Bliss. A Christmas unsullied by things. Just great food, great company and a leisurely pace. I really can’t wait.
Happy Christmas to you all, however you choose to do it.
Feel free to drop by my Facebook page over the holidays to see what I’ve been up to on the food, gardening and writing front. Chances are, too much, quite a bit and not enough- in that order.