What spoils Christmas for me is not that it has been commercialised, but hijacked by celebrity chefs.
Nobody can have an uncomplicated Christmas dinner any more. Apart from seeming to delight in making us feel guilty that we are not using Fairtrade fruit in our mincemeat, or even worse, are using shop-bought puff pastry for our mince pies, each one professes to have the perfect method of cooking a turkey.
In the old days, my mum used to fill the turkey’s neck cavity with sage and onion stuffing, brush melted butter all over it, then pop it in the oven gas mark 5, allowing 25 minutes per pound plus 25 minutes over. Whatever potatoes were available would be roasted in dripping. Carrots would be peeled and sliced, and as for the Brussels sprouts, well, they would be sorted, washed and have their stalks nicked. Never once can I remember not having succulent slices of turkey, crispy golden potatoes and delicious vegetables.
According to today’s chefs, mum did it all wrong. Listening to them, you can’t have plain old turkey any more. One chef suggests you soak it in brine for at least two days. Another recommends that you cook it upside down. Insert herbs and spices under the skin, says another. Slow roast it, spit roast it. Lather it in extra virgin olive oil, but only use oil which has been hand pressed when the moon is full. Stuff it with Abyssinian periwinkles, or organic Nigerian manioc, the list is endless.
Roast potatoes are now only de rigueur if they are of the Maris variety and coated in flour or soy sauce and then cooked in goose fat. The humble carrot also has to have a name, be no bigger than your thumb and served with its green frilly bits. As for Brussels sprouts, one chef wants you to peel them and cook them like cabbage! It might be all right for him. He has loads of staff, but by my reckoning, if you wanted to cook your sprouts this way, you would have to start peeling them about November 5th!
Oh, and I can’t finish without mentioning mince pies. This year, the trend is that they should be pine scented. Ugh. Can you honestly imagine eating something that tastes of the stuff they put in loo cleaners? Call me old fashioned, but my Christmas dinner will be cooked in the traditional way. Anyway, whatever method you choose, I hope you enjoy it - after all, it is Christmas.
D. WALKER Barrowford.