We are so sorry you could not join us on Christmas Day. What a pity that our 24/7 society has come to such a pass that you should have to work instead of joining with the rest of the family. We missed your beautiful smile and happy nature, and you missed a great day. It so rarely falls to me to be the hostess at Christmas, that I made a special effort to transform into a domestic goddess, preparing heaps of food. Well, salads really – but all made with fresh ingredients (is there another way to make a salad?) You would have been impressed, all the same. I donned an apron to enhance the look. A bright red one that matched my outfit.
We started the preparations a couple of days before. Bill went prawning, and came home with a five kilo haul. It is amazing how he managed to make them look store bought. Professionally packed in a carton and snap frozen. On Christmas Day morning we laid some out to defrost, and covered them in coarse salt for extra flavour. When it came time to eat them, I was too busy preparing the main course to actually savour any myself. I just stuffed a few in my mouth as I was running here and there. And Rose reminded me she does not eat prawns – but you would have loved them. Especially since Bill peeled them for everyone. He stopped after two or three kilos, when I reminded him there was more food to come. So we have a couple of kilos left over – you might like us to drop some by?
We decided on ham and turkey. I was keen to glaze the ham. There is a beautiful photo on the front of my favourite cook book, but I’ll be blowed if I could find the recipe inside. There wasn’t even a credit for where the photograph had come from. Other neighbours had plenty of suggestions though, so I kind of combined all their recipes together. One said to put the pineapple on at the beginning and cook for an hour and half – that seemed a bit excessive to me. The other said to heat the pineapple separately and place it on at the end. That seemed as if it would miss the glazing taste to me. So I compromised and put the pineapple on about half way through, and tipped some spare glaze over. I only burnt my hand once. By the way, I wasn’t sure how much pineapple I would need, so I have two tins left over, if you need any.
We ordered the ham a couple of weeks ago, and collected it Monday. Then a neighbour had a last minute change of plan, and offered us a ham that was already part prepared. Skinned and pre-sliced, with the fat still on top ready to be glazed. So we used hers, and now have an untouched six kilo ham left over in my fridge – let me know if you need any.
We planned to cook the turkey on the barbecue and the ham in the oven, since both cannot fit in the oven at the same time. We used the barbecue on Monday and everything was fine. Then for some reason, the hose would not connect to the gas point the next day. Bill lost around an hour fiddling with it, but he didn’t lose his temper. You know what a wonderful and patient guy he is. A lesser man would have done his lolly, and probably kicked the cat, but Bill was just slightly exasperated at how such an inexplicable thing could just happen like that – and right on Christmas Eve. His frustration was completely understandable and I think he showed remarkable forbearance. All the same, I am thankful that we don’t own a cat, if you get my drift. It was a lucky thing we had that gas point put inside the apartment last year. We ended up barbecuing in the lounge room – and we didn’t even set the smoke alarm off.
By co-incidence, our weekly newsletter had a dead simple recipe to stuff a turkey. It required a couple of oranges, but I couldn’t remember that part when I was at the shops – so I bought a huge bagful. I have heaps left over, if you need any.
I wrote myself a note in the diary to remind me when to start defrosting the turkey, but as luck would have it, I was busy that day and didn’t check the diary. Bill reminded me just before bed, so I took it off the freezer and put it in the fridge. A day and half later, it was still quite frozen and I started to panic. Right at the last though, it defrosted rather quickly, so all was well when I started to prepare it Christmas morning. The recipe said to stuff the cavity. I turned the turkey over and over, but I couldn’t find any cavity. Apart from the one where the tail would have been, and that didn’t look big enough to stuff with oranges. Then I realised the recipe was for a whole turkey, and I had only bought a turkey buffet breast. So I improvised. I put the stuffing in an aluminium tray and balanced the turkey on top of it.
The turkey was supposed to be pre-marinated, but it looked anaemic to me, and I had seen a celebrity chef rub butter under the skin to help with moistness, so I gave that a go. It looked pretty easy on the television, but I think it should come with a warning, “Vegetarians should not attempt this.” I am here to tell you Sis, getting under a turkey’s skin is a squidgy business. Anyway, I mashed butter with garlic and parsley, and pushed that into the space I had created. I rubbed more butter on the outside. Then I remembered I heard butter burns faster than oil, so I poured some oil over and rubbed that in. Sis, this Domestic Goddess thing is a bit of a business – can’t really say I recommend it. By the way, there is no turkey left – sorry about that.
I did my best with the decorations too, although I cannot match you. Remember last year when you did that Hawaiian theme? Everything inside and outside the house looked so tropical: green and fruity. Of course, it did rain cats and dogs and we were forced inside, and the palm fronds looked rather cyclone damaged, but I could see in my mind’s eye where you were going with that look.
I kept it traditional here. I had to push some furniture into the lobby to be able to seat ten at the table, so I tizzed it up a bit in deference to the neighbours. Rose said it looked nice. (By the way, I embroidered the cloth in my “Needlework Goddess” phase back in1980). They also liked the place cards I made. Actually, I thought of doing that after I was losing so much time working out where to put the matching cutlery and crockery. You know I only have enough for eight, and even some of that has broken over time. By the end of it I was up to splayds and those cake plates you gave me for our engagement.
Anyway, I rushed to the computer, and used the first template that the publisher programme offered. It was a winter picture with a snowman. Rose said I jinxed us, because it started to rain, a drizzle at first, and then heavier as the day went on. The memory of us having a scorching hot and dry Australian Christmas Day is becoming as faded as the memory of me having a small waist line.
I invested in some Christmas crackers that were a cut above the rest. They were too strong for Ida and me to break open and the men had to help us. However, there were useful things inside, such as a set of measuring spoons, a bottle opener and so on. Bill’s had a compass, which caused him to make a joke that I cannot repeat here. It led to us reminiscing about what you said the first time you met him. Remember the comment about being “built for comfort, not speed?” Thirty years later and we are still getting a laugh out of that one, even though you have long since learnt that is not a reference to being chubby. What a pity you weren’t with us to hear the joke repeated again. I am sure you would have liked that.
The jokes inside the crackers were better than usual too. The table got noisy as everyone started to tell theirs at once. I suggested that we take it in turns, but I was over-ruled. Talking over the top of each other is much more our style. Must be something to do with the Italian blood.
By the way – have you heard this one?
Q. What did the alien say to the garden?
A. Take me to your weeder.
John started an accidental exodus from the lunch table when he picked up his empty plate and took it to the sink. That is the downside of having a kitchen/dining combination. I was just getting relaxed and about to offer seconds. The next thing I knew, we were all back in the kitchen, everyone pitching in with washing up and packing up the leftovers. I didn’t really get to communicate that we have a dishwasher – but then I had used some of the beautiful crystal that we got for wedding presents, and that should be hand-washed. It so rarely gets used that sometimes I think it will last longer than our marriage.
Anyway, it wasn’t such a bad thing that we left the table so quickly, as I still had the meat and salads out on the kitchen counter, and they have been running those ads on television about food poisoning. Talk about spreading Christmas cheer. Between our cool weather and the speed which we ate, salmonella never had a chance in this house.
I had the foresight to buy plastic takeaway containers the day before. Actually when I was at the pay counter, the attendant pointed out that all I had was lids. So I went back for the containers and grabbed the cheapest, which turned out, of course, to be the smallest. Rose was very impressed when she saw the leftovers stacked so well – said it looked like a shelf in a grocery store. A lifetime of working in shipping and logistics, you think I should know a thing or two about maximising room in a refrigerator at Christmas. By the way, I have a bagful of containers left over, if you need any.
Well my dear, I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture. Our Christmas Day was just as chaotic and dysfunctional as always. Our fine family tradition continues.
Your place next year? Let’s hope it doesn’t rain…………….
Your loving sister, Garrulous Gwendoline (aka Maria)