Monday, 26 December 2011

Lessons of Christmas

1. Always tip well in restaurants - cooking is very hard work.

2. Nigella Lawson, annoying though some people find her, (not me - I love her), has made at least one major contribution to modern life - namely, recommending that you should use foil baking trays, so that you can throw them away instead of having to wash them all up.

3. Cooking is exhausting - oh, did I mention that already? Well, it's worth mentioning again. It strikes me as a form of brinksmanship, if that's the right word - to be fresh and delicious and hot and so forth, most food has to be prepared right at the last minute, leaving no room for mistakes or complete stuff ups - which reminds me, obliquely, of the story my friend's aunt, a Sydney girl who married a New South Wales farmer, used to tell:

In her effete urban manner, she'd prepared for the first Sunday lunch after their marriage - the first she'd prepared for her country relations - some kind of light first course, (cold consomme, possibly), and then a roast chicken, plus salad and a scattering of roast potatoes and pumpkin. She'd planned to offer fresh fruit after that, but, as the meal proceeded, it became clear to her that she hadn't cooked nearly enough meat or roast vegetables and that, even if she had, this particular mob regarded a hearty pudding as the only fitting end to such an occasion - or indeed to any meal.

She wanted to make a good impression, but she had no pudding - what was she to do? Finally, she came up with a plan that, while not actually providing a pudding, would go a long way to saving her reputation as someone who knows how to plan - if not execute - a decent feed.

Jumping up from the table, she hurried into the kitchen, turned on the gas flame and poured sugar over it. As the smell of burning sugar began to spread through the air, she dashed back to the dining room, tea towel in hand. 'I'm  terribly sorry,' she cried, 'I completely forgot to keep an eye on the pudding - it's burnt to a cinder.' While they all went away a bit hungry, at least they didn't go away believing her to be a woman who didn't understand the importance of pudding.

4. Once a year is often enough for Christmas and, having done it and got it out of the way for this year, I can only quote TS Eliot's typist (while acknowledging that she was referring to an utterly different circumstance):

'Well now that's done: and I'm glad it's over.'


  1. Somebody who wrote for Gourmet Magazine, I think Barbara Kafka, was/is married to a psychiatrist. I read an interview in which she said that he had told her not to be obsessed with perfection--the guests were coming for dinner with friends, not to be dazzled by the food. We take more trouble than some folks do with cooking, but I think that the man was right.

  2. 21! Impressive zmkc. I feel glad it's done after cooking for 10! Exhausting. But, at least it didn't rain ... in fact it was a nigh perfect day given what's been around it. I hope you have a wonderful 2012.

  3. I agree, George.
    Imagine if we'd had the following day's weather, Whispering - I was so glad it turned out fine.

  4. Absolutely ... we were so lucky given the weather we'd been having ... and I do like George's comment. We need to keep that in mind but it's a challenge because we do want the food to taste good, to not make people sick and for there to be enough. Juggling all this is challenge enough without aiming for perfection!

  5. I suppose the worry with George's comment is that, given my cooking, the conversation is going to have to be really quite sensational.