There’s certainly no other time of year when it’s considered not only acceptable but practically ones civic duty to fill your cupboards with box after box of mince pies, fruit cakes so heavy they could sink a battleship and puddings so dense they need to be doused in alcohol and set on fire before eating. There’s certainly no other time of the year when you feel the need to keep 8 different types of cheese in the fridge – 4 of which contain an unidentified fruit and 1 which looks like it belongs in a Petri dish.
And as for the cream. We had nearly 3 pints of the stuff in our fridge over Christmas period. 3 pints? As if, under normal circumstances, we’d even attempt to plough our way through 1. And let’s not forget the chocolate. The stuff we try to ignore, avoid, limit throughout the rest of the year. Come Christmas morning it’s wall-to-wall cocoa beans and anything in a wrapper is suddenly considered fair game – not to mention an essential food group.
And then there’s the bird. The hero of the day and the most expensive slice of dry, tasteless meat that will ever grace your plate.
Our turkey this year led a happy and carefree existence roaming around the Norfolk countryside – or so I’d like to believe, if for no other reason than to justify the extortionate cost of the thing feather for feather. Hell, for that price I hope the bird had its own luxury living quarters and a personal masseuse right up until the day it lost its head and giblets.
Having selflessly fulfilled its purpose in life, it met its maker on a nearby farm and arrived here in its own fancy cardboard box on Christmas Eve. Weighing in at roughly the same as my Mini Cooper, this gigantic fowl required some major re-jigging of the fridge space and an hour of patient tweezering on my part. As ‘Hollywoods’ go, it certainly wasn’t given a very thorough one I have to say.
And so, with enough food in to see us through until Easter, the Big Day was upon us. As with countless other families around the world, we sat down to a lavish breakfast the size of lunch before spending the rest of the morning cooking enough lunch to feed the Armed Forces. That’s an awful lot of peeling, cutting, boiling, blanching, stuffing, roasting, basting and burning for a morning, especially one that started with a 4 on the clock. And of course there was also the banging headache to contend with, the one that came as a direct result of drinking alcohol with breakfast. No other day would it seem to make perfect sense to start drinking before preparing the mother of all roasts.
This year it has to be said that all went pretty much to plan in our house – unlike C Day in 2009 when spitting fat went into overdrive, the oven burst into flames and the turkey was practically cremated on the spot. The only minor mishap this year was something of a basting affair. My husband, who with the stronger arms was in charge of the turkey, was in the midst of removing our enormous specimen from the depths of the furnace, when somehow he managed to tip the liquid contents of the roasting dish all over his feet.
Now I have to admit my first thoughts were not of his burnt trotters – now covered in sizzling fluid and singed toe hair – they were of our lunch, which was now hanging onto the edge of the roasting tray by a crispy wingtip and threatening to throw itself onto the floor. With visions of the thing skidding across the laminate and under the dusty base unit (as has happened in the distant past), ‘practicality’ came into force well before any thoughts of concern or sympathy. So next to the open oven my husband was forced to stand, teeth gritted while bird and basting fluids were saved, rearranged and returned to continue cooking – or, as in the case of turkey, drying out.
Disaster avoided he (husband not turkey) was finally allowed to sprint upstairs to cool down his skin and change his clothes. Still, no long-term damage done really, and on the upside, at least his feet are now as soft, smooth and hair free as a baby’s bottom.
So now that Christmas has come and gone, what’s become of all that food? Well that’s the worst bloody part. Not only did we feel somehow guilted into buying far more than we needed or could ever possibly consume, but having been brought up to believe wasting food is practically a criminal act, we simply couldn’t bring ourselves to throw any of it away.
So we ate the lot. Less a pint of cream and half a box of chocolates I surreptitiously slipped into a departing relatives bag.
And that’s how we waddled into January. Feeling fat, fed up and somewhat horrified at the vast quantities we’d worked our way through. My backside has expanded, my jeans are tighter and my stomach looks like one of those ‘before’ shots for a Z-listers ‘Post Baby’ fitness DVD. And it’s this feeling, I believe, that explains much of why the first 2 months of the years are generally considered the more depressing of the 12. It’s got nothing to do with Post Christmas Blues, having to go back to work or the cold weather. It’s all about the impending diet and realising that unless we get our wobbly arse into lycra and gear, there’s not a hope in hell of looking half way decent in anything less than a burka once the summer rolls around.
So yes, it’s definitely time to ignore the sugar craving and start an industrial scale detox, not to mention resist those last few chocolates still floating around the house. Yesterday I admit I had a minor relapse when I quickly shoveled in a small piece of cake as I walked past. To get rid of the rest, I put the last 2 pieces on the kids plate for tea.
“We can’t eat this,” they shrieked in disgust, “it’s all mouldy underneath.”
That was all my stomach needed to hear. My diet had begun.