Thursday, 22 December 2011


CHEAT underlined in bold at the top of this year's Christmas menu. A three course meal: starter, main, and pud. Each served with elaborate words. Exaggerate the detail. Deciding in advance this chef would go on strike. A flick of the oven switch, set the temperature and timer. My kitchen work complete. Sit back, relax. Unwrap presents, watch the dog chasing screwed up balls of paper. New toys moist with dribble on my lap. The muted sound of the telly in the background. Table laid with the best cutlery and china. Christmas with my parents goes like clockwork. Slow, fast, slow, fast, fast, slow, slow, slow... Presents, nibbles, lunch etc, etc. The day progresses like an antique clock following its own rhythm. Has it always been like this?

This year I'm stirring it up. I'm cheating my way through Christmas. For 51 weeks I've cooked from scratch. Peeled, chopped, and boiled. Pureed soups and sauces. Made breakfast, lunches, snacks and dinners. The 25th is my day off. Being the only veggie guest in the house is tough enough, without argy-bargy in the kitchen. Tempers frayed, elbowing each other out of the way. Arguing over which way is best to prepare the veg. Mum always peels the new potatoes, boils carrots to a pulp. Faces flushed, scowls exchanged. Voices raised with “Get out of my way!” Steam expressed, fogging up the windows. Sharing a kitchen is not fun on Christmas day, but it is the room we gather. Squashed into its tiny space with the oven's warmth, pots and pans on simmer.

Christmas is like a deck of playing cards. Cards dealt out, what will I choose: a game of snap or patience? Neither. This year I select to use the Joker. Bluff my hand. Enter ready-prepared. Cut corners where I have to. Well-stocked supermarket giants coming to my rescue. A shop-brought veggie feast. A vegan quiche, a medley of med veg, followed by vegan sheese and crackers. Uncomplicated. No prep, little cooking required. Minimal fuss. I'm not ashamed to admit I'm going to cheat on Christmas Day. Packaging brazenly laid on the kitchen worktop. No, I confess I didn't make this earlier. I'm not doing a “Blue Peter”.

I'm throwing tradition out with the turkey. Goodbye nut roasts! I'm crossing another style of cuisine off my Christmas dinner list. Oven cooked Mediterranean. Christmas Eve, I'm doing a stir fry, jazzing it up with shredded brussel sprouts. Christmas culinary rules begging to be broken. Elements from the festive dish in a new creation. A fusion. Even cheating takes imagination. So eat, drink and be merry, but hands off, this meal's mine!

Happy Cheatin' Christmas!