After cooking Christmas for my family I realise the error of my former ways and would like to say sorry.
No one called me a cook twice when I was at catering college. I was a chef. I was training to cut carrots into the smallest brunoise dice, whip cream to its thickest point before it turned into grainy butter and cook every steak to perfection. My fellow students and I used to curl our lips and sneer at ‘domestic cooks’ with their over cooked vegetables, reliance on Delia Smith and most of all for their use of gravy granules. In those days a sauce wasn’t a sauce unless it had been deglazed, reduced, emulsified and napped. But those heady days are long gone. I am now a domestic cook and I have just cooked Christmas.
My family is probably no more eccentric than anyone else’s (even if right now they feel as though they are). So cooking Christmas means accommodating: children with limited palates; the elderly with limited teeth; vegetarians; militant meat eaters; those who are hungry; those who don’t feel like eating much and those who have an abhorrence of garlic.
How did I manage? By eating the very words that I shouted so loudly when I was a catering student.
On Christmas day I cooked a turkey crown instead of a whole turkey. A crown is just the breast meat, As the meat isn’t cooked on the bone it isn’t as flavoursome and there’s no tougher but tastier brown meat, and there’s no carcass to make stock for a good Boxing Day soup. Plus there’s the moral objection (which I usually hold dear) that it is wrong to only use the best bits of meat and to spurn the lesser cuts. But a crown is easier to cook, carve and eat. And I had enough on my plate without worrying about what do with a couple of dried up wings. Sacrifices had to be made.
I also felt no shame in getting advice from those who have gone before. I looked up Delia on line (this is somehow less compromising than buying a whole Delia Smith cookbook) when I wanted to refresh my memory of how long to cook a honey-roast ham so the glaze is perfectly brown and bubbly.
Finally I used the odd convenience food: puff pastry, marzipan and yes gravy granules. How else was I going to get a gravy thick enough to please my good trenchermen relatives?
So all of this leaves looking back at the claims made my former self made and shaking my head in shame at my arrogant ignorance. I would like to apologise for any offence my high-fluting ways may have caused.
Of course working as a chef is a very, very gruelling profession, a few weeks of working double-shifts knocks the catering college greenery out of anyone pretty quick. But try doing a family Christmas with its inherent shopping, budgeting, cleaning keeping everyone happy, not swearing or drinking too much. That really sorts the women out from the girls. So here I say domestic cooks I salute you and all that you achieve day in day out 365 days a year!