This time of year is wonderful for foodies! We get to eat some of the most indulgent treats imaginable. There is an endless supply of goodies at the grocery stores right now, and they are all priced so cheaply. Chocolates and candies, sweets, puddings, and desserts are all available in huge quantities right now. And we just can’t get enough!
At Christmas time, we all fancy having a go at making at least some of the food we are preparing for our nearest and dearest. If you have a lot of family and friends coming over for the holidays, it can be quite a challenge to cater for everyone in one go. You may have made a long list of items and dishes that will appear on your menu for the festive season. Perhaps you will be making several versions of the same dish.
Every good meal deserves a good bottle of wine, but at Christmas, the drinks seem to keep flowing all day and into the night. Ordering enough to satisfy everyone can be expensive. Also, you never know how many will want white wine and how many will want red wine. Traditionally, a bottle of champagne is opened at the dining table to celebrate the coming together of all the family for the feast. One bottle is never enough though, so this may well eat up the majority of your Christmas budget this year.
To help the alcohol go a little further, try making a couple of punches. One can be kid-safe and alcohol-free. The other bowl can have a modicum of alcohol in there. This may include mulled wine, or be laced with spirits like vodka. Some drinkers won’t be keen on it if it is sweet, so set some wine aside for those people too. If you don’t have a dishwasher, keep an eye on the glass reserves! Alternatively, try some recycled punch cups with seasonal designs for a little bit of festive fun.
One of the biggest problems with catering for so many at big festive gatherings is having an oven big enough to take the meat. Some people like a Turkey, but these are big birds and can easily be too big. You can cheat a little and buy a prepared meat joint, or accept that the meat might well be cold by the time it reaches the table. By the time the hot gravies, sauces and trimmings have been added, nobody is likely to notice!
After the main meal, there are so many desserts to choose from. There are several traditional Christmas foods you can try. A Christmas cake is made of fruit cake where the fruit has been soaked for months (yes months) in rum, or a cocktail of spirits. It is baked and then covered in marzipan. Finally, the whole thing is smothered in white Royal icing to look like snow. It is then traditional to let the children decorate it with snowman or Santa figures.
Christmas pudding is also a food that risks you getting caught drink driving! Soaked in alcohol again, it contains lots of sultanas and raisins and glace cherries. A silver sixpence is also added, and the person who finds it is considered lucky. This, of course, assumes they didn’t choke to death or break their teeth! Traditionally, some rum is heated over a low hob, poured over the hot pudding and set alight. A lot of people do this in the dark so you can see the flames. Please be careful – have a fire blanket or extinguisher ready!
Pfeffernusse and Stollen are firm favorites from continental Europe over the festive period too. Stollen is a little more cakey in texture and Pfeffernusse are more biscuity and gingery in flavor. Both can be found at German markets. Panettone is Italian and is usually a very large size cake-like pudding. Yule log is chocolate cake covered in crisp chocolate shell. Like Christmas cake, it is often decorated with festive characters. It has become common at this time of year to add a delicious chocolate loaf cake to the table too. Other chocolatey dishes include festive cupcakes and eggnog with a splash of chocolate syrup.
Once you have gorged yourself on all the wonderful treats Christmas offers your tummy, you may be feeling rather sleepy. Usually, when we have a lot of family and friends around, we are not the lucky ones getting to fall asleep in the armchair! Other post-dinner activities include carol singing and charades. Of course, console party games are fast taking over as popular past-times.
The TV is usually central to any Christmas Day gathering. In the UK, it is tradition at 3pm to sit and watch the Queen’s Speech. In the US and other countries, there is a wealth of films and TV programs that are delivered on this day. Popular movie reruns for the 25th December include, ‘The Great Escape’, ‘The Sound of Music’, and ‘The Muppets’. Some say it doesn’t feel like Christmas without a dose of Julie Andrews! The children like to examine their new toys and the grown-ups flick through their new books. Gift-giving usually happens before the meal if children are younger – good luck trying to make them wait until after!
However big your Christmas and however successful your cooking attempts, it all seems to be over so quickly. If you find yourself staring into the tree lights wondering where it all went, you are not alone. This time of year can cause a great deal of depression, but for some, the biggest come-down is after the big sugar rush from dessert. Having that much sugar in one go can cause a few imbalances internally, so watch out for the post-lunch lull of your life!
Cooking for family and friends can be quite stressful and is definitely a lot of hard work, but there are plenty of rewards for doing so. As adventurous and skillful in the kitchen you may be, don’t take it all on yourself, or you won’t have any time to enjoy Christmas yourself. Take some time out to enjoy the company and festivities too.