The rant: Gluttons for punishment?

The rant: Gluttons for punishment?

By Sam Herlihy

How many times a year does your entire family sit down to dinner together? For many, it’s a rare feat. But the one occasion when near enough every Christmas-observing family manages to gather round and make merry is 25 December.

There’s Aunty Mabel trying to be polite about the undercooked carrots, and Grandpa Jack surreptitiously sipping from a hip flask. Ah, young Johnny has been roused from his fetid bedroom. And daughter Katie is communicating with speech instead of the usual thumb-tapping of emoticons, ‘likes’ and OMGs.

So why on the one day of the year we sit together around a table, free from the pressures of work or education, do we insist on serving things we don’t necessarily like? Why brussels sprouts? Why overspiced red cabbage that tastes like potpourri? Why a bird that’s often so overcooked and dry it’s enough to make a service station sarnie seem appealing?

“The biggest meal of the year is about feeding
people you love, not about ticking boxes”

We’re supposed to be celebrating, not miserably chewing our way through some sort of penance. Yes, you can cajole a turkey into a state of moist edibility. And yes, there are ways to cook sprouts so they don’t turn into watery mush. But why bother if, regardless of the cooking method, no one around the dining table actually likes them?

Christmas is meant to be a time of jolly gluttony, not a culinary assault course. As cook, you don’t have to run a military-style operation involving time charts and pre-dawn alarm clocks. You don’t need to spend your day marshalling battalions of pigs-in-blankets, hordes of under/overcooked vegetable side dishes and a grim brigade of sauces: bread, cranberry, gravy, and myriad root veg purées that all taste of swede. The carver (I’m talking to you, Dad) doesn’t have to curse the blunt knife as he attempts to hack through the desiccated turkey crown.

Why not cut out the unnecessary frills and serve Christmas lunch a little sooner, then Grandpa Jack’s hip flask might last beyond the Queen’s speech.

Would you dare serve burgers on Christmas day?

The biggest meal of the year is about feeding the people you love. It’s not about ticking boxes and following stifling tradition for tradition’s sake. This Christmas can be different… Cook what you like. If your family love turkey, all well and good. But if they love pizza? Go forth and roll out the dough. A festive curry? Why not. Want the teenagers to flock to the dinner table ready to regale the elders with good manners and engaging chit-chat? Give them what they want to eat (even if that means burgers, burritos or hotdogs).

And don’t forget to factor in a few of your own favourite eats. It’s your day and it’s your table. Whatever you cook, cook it because you want to, not because you think you should.

So what do you think? Would you serve curry on Christmas Day or do you prefer to keep with a traditional Christmas menu?

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