I am not that keen on Christmas. There - I've said it. It's like the elephant in the room, the thing nobody wants to hear anyone else say, but that more people than care to admit it would have to admit to themselves, if they were being totally honest. All that phony commercialism, pressure to shop up large, and being forced to catch up with people you have spent the year successfully avoiding. But - do you know what I reckon really seals the deal? Christmas food kinda sucks, actually.
Take Christmas cake - please, take it all, take it away. Christmas cake is like an ultra-hideous version of fruitcake, which I also dislike. It is potentially useful as a doorstop, or to weigh down a body with. But as for eating it - ugh. Doubt it, bro. Not on my watch. Especially not if it has that foul almond icing that is like rancid Polyfilla. Ye gads.
Turkey. Why anyone would anybody eat turkey in preference to a nice bit of chicken? Dry, takes an age to cook and you always have loads left over because no one actually likes it that much! Turkey sandwich? Better with chicken! Turkey curry with leftovers? Puh-lease, no!
Even ham, which I do like - that smell of leftover Xmas ham festering away in a vinegar-soaked cloth bag in the fridge - ugh! Nauseating. And once you have exhausted ham sandwiches, ham and cheese pasta/risotto/soufflé, ham salad etc, etc - there is still more bloody ham! It is never-ending.
Equally troublesome are Christmas mince pies. That Christmas mince stuff - diced fruit, peel and unidentifiable brown gloop - encased in a rock-hard pastry shell that may as well be made of cardboard. Decidedly ropey.
And so, pardon my lack of enthusiasm when one of those (usually welcome) food-filled courier packages turned up at Slow Boat recently, and was found to contain not one, but three varieties of the dreaded Xmas mince pies. Two different, non-traditional flavours - caramel and berry mince. And one of your standard Xmas mince - I can see what you are up to here, Nature's Harvest people, from Nelson - you think you are going to change my mind about Xmas foods that I dislike (because I am a cranky old duffer), by just making them in different flavours. Pftt. How stupid do you think I am?!
Caramel, though. I like caramel. And I like berry-flavoured stuff. I am forced to concede that it is, actually, a pretty good idea. Proof's in the tasting, though. I dive in.
Caramel. Pretty good. Sweet, creamy filling, moist, yielding pastry cases - no damage to roof of mouth whatsoever. Then the berry. I chomp on through, because I am nothing if not thorough/ professional - I meet sweet, tangy fruit - berries, and maybe a little apple. They're delicious. They're the best of the three, dammit.
I even,grudgingly, make headway with the standard Xmas mince. They're actually pretty good too, curse it all. This is, actually, disastrous.
So, what to do when one of the bedrocks of your existence - the hatred of Xmas food - has been irretrievably shaken, and undermined? Do I, now, have to reassess everything else? Do I give turkey curry/sandwiches et al another chance because of some overachieving, cunningly devised alternative Christmas pies? Maybe I do. I have been played. And I have loved it.
I feel the true essence of Christmas grinchery flooding out of me. I find myself yearning for the scent of sweaty, vinegary ham in a bag, and for leftover turkey sandwiches. I swear off chicken, momentarily. I want Christmas food, right now.
What I still do not want, however, is Christmas cake. Not at all, not one iota. Christmas cake still remains the last frontier, the last bastion of my tacit festive protest. It is a line I shall not cross - not unless anyone can conspire to change my mind? And even then, I'd doubt it. Actually - don't bother.
So, happy warm-up to Christmas, everybody, from this cranky, opinionated, Christmas-cake-loathing old duffer. Bring it on - I'll be ready.
Do you like Christmas tucker? Really? Honestly? Don't you like chicken better than turkey? How to minimise the sweaty ham-stink? And any tips for a Xmas cake I might actually like?
(Nature's Harvest Xmas mince pies are available from supermarkets, in packs of four at an RRP of $2.39, and eight, for $4.39)
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