Christmas means something different to everyone. For some, it's a time to spend with family; for children, it's usually about Santa and the presents; and for others, it is of course about the birth of Jesus Christ. For me, inevitably you might argue, it's about the food.
Christmas and food are so synonymous that the idea of spending the 'big day' without some sort of decadent feast seems an alien concept. Food magazines have been providing recipes, tips, menu plans, alternatives to turkey, and so much more since pretty much the beginning of November. The Food Network channel has been recycling a constant loop of Christmas cooking shows since around the same time, and the supermarkets are doing just the same.
Each supermarket tries to create THE advert that will blow their audiences away and rival that of the John Lewis Christmas advert (I'm not sure that will ever be possible). Adverts that are encouraging you to buy plenty of food and drink to excess this festive period, and that subsequently fuel the idea that Christmas is all about the food.
And much like everyone has their own feelings about Christmas, everyone has their own idea of what constitutes Christmas dinner. I've polled a wide selection of people, and it seems (at least in the UK) that Christmas dinner takes place around 2 or 3pm. Presumably that's because the chef was up at the crack of dawn putting the turkey in the oven, and it's subsequently only ready mid-afternoon. Controversially, in our household, we have our Christmas dinner, well, at dinner time. Crazy, I know!
Then there's the big debate over whether to have turkey, or to try something alternative this year. Should we plump for a goose? Or roast a ham with a sticky glaze? Or go completely wild and have fresh salmon?
Fundamentally though, I'm a traditionalist when it comes to the main meal. It's got to be turkey, pigs in blankets, roast potatoes and parsnips, red cabbage and plenty of Brussel sprouts! Yorkshire puddings have no place at the Christmas dinner table, unless of course you've opted for roast beef, then they are the perfect accompaniment.
Dessert, we go a little off piste, as Christmas pudding isn't popular in our household. Usually it's a chocolate alternative: my mother's intensely rich and decadent dark chocolate cheesecake, which only makes an appearance at this time of year. I don't think there's anything more fitting to round off an indulgent meal than this cheesecake. Rich, velvety and incredibly dark, a thin wedge with a dollop of fresh cream is as much as anyone can handle after the main event. Finally, finish off the meal with cheese and a glass of port to seal your fate of languishing on the sofa, unable to move, while watching the Christmas Strictly Come Dancing episode.
Whatever you think of Christmas, food has now got a starring role. But, behind the food; behind the excessiveness and decadence of the day; is still the idea of bringing people together at Christmas. Bringing family together under one roof to enjoy this feast and share the memories. Because although food, and our obsession with it at this time of year, can seem superficial, there's actually so much more to it than just eating.
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