(photograph © Kiwidutch)
Like many Christmas-celebrating homes all over the world, the last few days have been a hectic rush of shopping, menu fine tuning and last minute rushes to the supermarket for bits and pieces forgotten or added.
Himself is doing all of the supermarket and Haagsemarkt running around, I am busy at home.
I knew that with a limited ability to stand for long that I’d need to be organised, so started earlier in the week with small tasks and paced myself.
Himself thought I was mad when I asked him last Thursday if we could possibly forgo eating dinner at the table until Christmas Day, the kids were ecstatic because that meant dinner in front of the TV and pizza.
Starting my dinner table three days in advance gave me the opportunity to arrange things in short bursts, to organise exactly how I was going to manage seating nineteen friends and family in my dining room and to organise a few surprises.
In the above photograph the table is only about half way to completion… there are still napkins to be fancy folded and put into the water glasses, some sparkly start coasters to find, cutlery to be added and a ton yet to go onto the table. If I get time later I hope to get photographs of the completed table fully decorated.
The main thing is that the “bones” are there, Himself will not be at the kitchen door for the 89th time asking what I mean when I said “x dish goes there, if x dish is the green one or the blue one, or the one with flowers, or stripes, or glass, that he’s not sure what utensil I mean, can I please come and check that everything is in the right place please?”.
I spent Christmas Eve evening surrounded by pots and pans in the living room, cutting boards, peelers and knives on the coffee table, and a plastic washing up bowl steadily filling up with veggie scraps as I sat on the couch and worked. Carrots for a crowd are peeled, as a potatoes for mash, different potatoes for roasting, the green beans are topped and tailed, the sprouts are cleaned and cut, and two pomelo’s are peeled and segmented for the fruit course.
In the kitchen mini pavlovas are stored in airtight plastic containers, a chocolate taart and a lemon taart are in the fridge (their fillings solved my problem of what to do with a small mountain of egg yolks after the whites were used for the pavlovas), my Aunty Heather’s beetroot is in the downstairs fridge, the garlic butter is made, the sage and onion stuffing has been made and cooked and just needs warming through.
I borrowed Himself’s strong arms to cut the pumpkin, it’s all ready to roast, parsnips will be added to the roasting pan too but I will peel them tomorrow morning because they go brown quickly.
(photograph © Kiwidutch)
An excellent foodie friend and guest is cooking a turkey crown and a couple of leg in her oven, she is bringing that and a large quantity of gravy… (you can never have too much gravy). One sister in law is bringing the strawberries and cream to go with the pavlovas, the other sister in law is bringing a salad because there are a number of vegetarians in the family and I am supplying everything else.
Christmas crackers are stupidly expensive here in the Netherlands (available in ex-pat shops at horrific prices) so my foodie friend bought me some that you make up yourself: ours are simple, when the cracker is pulled and the snap goes bang, there will be found two little packets of Haribo gummies, one for each person pulling the cracker.
One thing I did do, a first and surprise for our guests, is a preprinted Christmas map, cut into pieces and put into each glass: felt tipped pens along the table should help break the ice because we have a few people with us who do not know most of the others, and after everyone has had fun colouring in, we can piece the map together to see what the finished product looks like. There will also be a small box of chocolates on each person’s plate as a Christmas welcome gift.
The rest of the menu is healthy, peas with fresh mint will joining the sprouts and green beans, mandarins, grapes, red currants and fresh pineapple join the cheese board, crackers and fruit course. One small addition has been made to the menu: some plain pasta for the pasta monsters a.k.a. picky eaters.
Christmas Day is the one day of the year when I really, really, really want a traditional roast and all the trimmings, and I would greatly appreciate the effort if only they would make it, to try something new on the table. Sadly it’s not about making me happy, or making one day of the year pasta-free, I was stormed down with “Christmas is about making us happy” and a big guilt trip followed so pasta is on the menu.
The best Christmas present in what has been a very difficult year is one we got on Christmas eve, the news that a friend abroad who had a cerebral hemorrhage on Thursday and in intensive care, is going to be ok, in fact they are hoping for a full recovery. It’s the kind of news that puts kids pouts over pasta into perspective.
We have very recently lost my 94 year old mother in law, so emotions in the family are still raw, tears close at hand and grieving a process we are all going through.
Filling this table is not just about a huge meal and gifts, it’s a reminder that family and friends are the biggest gift we have, that building memories and including people who would otherwise be alone is important, that we can support each other despite the fact that some can be present in memory only. That this is the day that Hope was born, and the ultimate Love. However you celebrate the 25th of December, if Christmas is special to you or not, my thoughts are with everyone I know, both near and far… I hope you have a wonderful day full of love, laughter and joy!
Merry Christmas !