The reasons the feast matters.

December 11, 2019

Christmas is one of those times of year that inspires reflection. For some it is a moment to contemplate the meaning of family. But for us, there is a simpler message to take away: We should all have more good food in our lives.

What’s refreshing about Christmas is that, for all the travel delays and the potential for family arguments, the focus is on the cooking – and food – for once.

Everyone recognises that the feast is what matters—or so it has always seemed to us. For one brief moment in the year, food becomes the most important thing. Will the mashed potatoes be smooth enough? Is it worth experimenting with a different turkey stuffing? A new gravy? Shall we introduce a few fresh side dishes? And, crucially, is there enough plum pudding?

Too many of us spend our lives in a state of turkey deprivation, judging from the hunger with which the turkey is greeted on a Christmas table. Few things instill more of a sense of comfort than the sight of a golden-topped turkey just before you cut into it.

The turkey holds the meal together, you need a star at the top of the marquee with a combination of affability and gravitas. A turkey is the only protein up to the task. It strikes the difficult balance of supporting—even elevating—everything else on the plate, while still exhibiting enough character to not just disappear into the background.

The other great joy of Christmas is having a ham, turkey, stuffing and leftover pudding for breakfast the day after.

Christmas aside, I don’t know anyone who regularly eats plum pudding or mince pies filled with apples, sugar, cinnamon, wine, currants and raisins with their crust of buttery goodness —for breakfast anymore. This is a bit sad. Think of all that fruit we are forgoing. Yes, pudding and fruit pies can be sugary, but no more so than the sweet, dessert-like items many of us regularly eat for breakfast. Why is a blueberry muffin a more common item than a mince pie?

We suspect that the single biggest reason we don’t make turkeys and pies more often is that we feel we don’t have time. Yet there is something about cooking and sharing a feast with those you love, that can actually make you feel less rushed and stressed (on the weekend, anyway). “Rest for at least an hour,” reads the instruction in most pie recipes. It’s referring to the pastry, but what if it also means you.

Hams, turkeys and all the trimmings aren’t just any meal.

There is no mystery to making them but they do require time and attention, two things that seem to be in short supply in most of our lives. My husband gets up at 5am every Christmas to glaze our ham, he spends hours glazing it, poking in tiny cloves in a lattice-pattern as carefully and precisely as if he were a sculptor making a fine vase, giving it every ounce of his effort. It’s mesmerizing to watch. And delicious to eat – something that has a way of living on in our memory long after the side dishes are forgotten.

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