In the midst of all the important things happening in my life, don’t blink or you’ll miss them, one is in neon lights. That would be Christmas lunch. Not to be confused with when the G.O. a few years back, in competition with our over the road neighbour draped the front verandah in neon chaser lights in an attempt to be Christmas Lights King of Taylors Arm but succeeded only in creating a display resembling a truck stop.
You’d think after 46 Christmases: good, bad and indifferent, I’d be less avid. If I’m honest, I approach Christmas with the best of intentions but mixed emotions. I prefer Christmas to be just so. In reality, it rarely gets close.
I enjoy Christmas. So long as it’s not competitive and will never qualify as an Olympic Christmas event. Underpinning the emotions is the knowledge that whatever I do, it’s for me, for my own amusement. I have to keep returning to that.
Like so many families, mine now have diverse commitments on Christmas day. Since my grandparents died when I was little, the entire family has spent one Christmas day together, at my house way back in the 80’s. Many of them travelled from away and stayed for a few days so it had the coming together feel of the old days. It was lovely. It was particularly lovely because even though I’d spent a month cleaning, my aunts just cleaned and cleaned… We went to our family church [tempting to joke about nips of scotch beforehand and cracks in foundations…], and afterwards had an all hands on deck Christmas lunch which by virtue of air conditioning was the last hot Christmas lunch I’ve prepared or eaten.
My Dad is not a good gauge, being at the lower end of jolly season barometer of family Christmas sentiments, having once opined “it’s just another feed”. We care but being a cool, calm, considerate and expanding family we ease the burden of Christmas commitments by getting together at other times to do other things, and touch base on Christmas day by phone.
Currently the G.O. and I are Taylors Arm centric at Christmas. It heralds the start of our annual summer holiday, and by virtue of her vintage the M.I.L who lives nearby in town gets first consideration. Formerly we’ve hosted a simple festive lunch affair, attendees comprised of the M.I.L, her husband, the G.O. and me.
Three years ago my S.I.L. and her husband moved back to share the house in town, and two years of government bonus payments meant they felt they could afford to host Christmas lunches. Fair enough. We made our contribution, and reaped the payoff in having to do little in the way of prep and cleaning up.
This year we broached the subject and were bluntly informed “it’s your turn” and “if you’re putting it on, we’re coming”. Okay.
And here lies my dilemma. The one I mentioned. I prefer Christmas to be just so. Whatever I do, it’s for my own amusement. Last year we went to the local Taylors Arm church as it had recently resumed services. It’s a big old white timber building that commands the top of the hill one house up from us. Despite its Catholic denomination all are welcome, and Father Michael, a fun, relaxed surfie priest comperes an inspiring observance. This year we’re attending again, so our guests unless they change their minds and come along will have to amuse themselves until we arrive home.
Before we walk up the hill we’ll do what we always done: set the table with a good white bed sheet in lieu of a tablecloth, beaded silver placemats, my much loved mismatched floral crockery plates, a table wreath I’ve had for 20 years, jars with flowers from the garden, festive Christmas crackers, all covered with the silver edged throw-over.
When we return, out will come the Christmas CDs who’s airing the G.O. can only abide on 24th & 25th December. I’ll open a bottle of sparkling wine to accompany the assembly of components for the festive repast: a selection of fresh cold food I sourced or prepared in forgoing days, and accommodate the guests’ desire for an early lunch.
Prawn cocktails. This is new. The M.I.L. hates peeling prawns, so this year we’ll save everyone the effort and peel a few extra on Christmas Eve after we’ve had our seafood supper.
Small roasted chickens with bread stuffing. The chickens’ true purpose is to function as a carrier for the stuffing plus a leg for those so inclined to gnaw on, and leftovers. We did cook a turkey once, on a 40 degree Celsius plus day in a too-small barbeque. The result resembled an oversized Portuguese BBQ chicken but tasted good.
Sliced leg ham.
Ordinary potato salad made with mayo, cream, boiled eggs, peas and shallots, and maybe capers if I’m feeling adventurous.
Potato bake at the request of the guests.
Tossed salad of whatever good greens I can find and home gown tomatoes, I hope.
Lychees and cherries.
Bread rolls and butter.
Deconstructed trifle. This also is new. The G.O. is not a fan of traditional trifle. I’m not a fan of carton custard and tinned pudding usually proffered and preferred by our guests, or of over-soaked trifle. While the oven is warm from the chooks, I’ll bake custard and dozen or so Madeleines, make room in the fridge for jelly, and poach a punnet of raspberries in vodka and sugar.
As soon as the main meal has been consumed the guests will be anticipating dessert. Once the plates are cleared, I’ll make a round of coffee and tea, and assemble the elements with a drop of good cream, and crossed fingers.
Our guests, after a post lunch stroll around the garden and verandah, a wander through the house, and possibly a brief respite on the futon or sun lounge, will depart to their own domicile for a traditional post Christmas nap. By the time they arrive back in town, the G.O. and I will have washed up and retired as well… a fitting end to a Christmas just so.
The reality is, no matter for their turns at hosting, the M.I.L. and S.I.L. went to hoards of trouble… Your Honour, I bring into evidence Exhibit I: $80 lobster of which we each had one bite because the M.I.L. couldn’t be persuaded it was a complete and utter rip off, Exhibit II: $50 white tablecloth, and Exhibit III: matching table decorations bought on Christmas Eve, never used again… Despite which they continually exhort me “you’ve gone to too much trouble” to the point I dream of serving tinned ham with supermarket bread on Homebrand paper plates and saying “I hope you don’t mind. I haven’t gone to any trouble…”
What do I do?
* Bella figura loosely translated: presenting yourself to world in the best way you can.