I’m no veteran in the Christmas kitchen. I’m 21 years old and this is only my second year being person in charge of making sure everybody gets fed on December 25th. However, I feel I’ve got it pretty much under control already. Family members have wandered into the kitchen to voice their surprise at my cool, calm and collected demeanour amongst the roasting and boiling and mountains of peeling, so I feel it’s possible that I may have some knowledge to impart that might help you or your loved ones next year. If not, I’ll try and crack some jokes or something along the way so that reading this hasn’t been a complete and total waste of your time.
Know what to delegate
This is a personal thing, only you know what you’d rather everybody else do. I’m perfectly happy peeling and chopping, but I’m not as confident being in charge of making sure the beef is cooked properly and getting yorkies to rise, we’re all different. The way I’ve divvied up the responsibility so far is as follows:
- I give the job of the big meat (turkey, beef, pork, whatever it is) to my Grandad and/or Uncle. I arrive at my Nan’s around 11am on Christmas Day, so they can either cook it the night before or early in the morning, and it’s all out of the way and not something I need to worry about by the time I get there. That leaves the kitchen (and my headspace) clear to think about all the other delicious components.
- The yorkshire puddings are my Nan’s responsibility, she makes the batter at some point while I’m prepping everything else, and I give her a 25 minute warning when it’s all about to come together so she can whack them in a hot oven.
This year, that left me in charge of: roast potatoes, roast parsnips, roast sweet potatoes, roast brussels sprouts, stuffing, Mum’s nut roast, Mum’s vegetarian gravy, everyone else’s beef gravy, cauliflower cheese, pigs in blankets, and bigs in blankets stuffed with brie and bacon mustard leeks. I like to go all out at Christmas.
Get everyone to chill out
If you’ve been put in charge of Christmas Dinner, then it’s your business what time it gets on that table. Any potentially whiny or stress-head family members must be put in their place as early on as possible (side note to family reading this, none of you are whiny, this is for the benefit of everybody else). Sit them in front of the TV with a drink or put someone else in charge of keeping them out of the kitchen. If dinner is late, dinner is late, nobody’s going to die if they don’t get roast potatoes down their gullet by 2pm, just remember that.
You know me, I’m happier in the kitchen than any other room in the house, so this rule is real easy to stick to for me. As soon as you can, sneak off into the kitchen and start prepping. The earlier the better. Up at 5am before everybody else for some strange Christmas magic reason? Peel a few potatoes. Waiting for someone to finish showering before you can all open presents? Wrap some of those piggies in their blankets. You can chip off little tasks of the main event before you’re officially in there cooking that can really ease the big job when you get there.
Drink, but not too much
I don’t want to tell you not to get pissed on Christmas Day, I really don’t. All I can tell you is that if I’d had any more than the two or three bucks fizzes I drank before I started cooking, I’d have gotten myself into a right pickle when it came to working out oven logistics. You know your own limit, stop just before you get to the level of tipsy that blocks proper brain function.
Don’t get lonely. You’re gonna be in the kitchen for a few hours no matter how much you’ve delegated, so make sure you’ve got some form of company throughout. I’m lucky enough to have a TV in my Nan’s kitchen, so I was mostly kept company by Harry Potter, but my little sister wandered in and out for a chat occasionally too, and I may have subjected myself to an hour or so of Christmas music..
Get organised, your way
The way to approach a task like this is not universal, it’s impossible for me to advise you on how best to organise yourself. The best I can say is that you should think about how your mind works in advance, and prepare accordingly.
Personally, I find that I’d rather spend a lot of time in the kitchen preparing everything than start cooking and run the risk of something not being ready to go into the oven when it needs to. So I chopped everything and stored it in the dish it was destined to be cooked in before I even switched the oven on. Therefore averting any panic on my part.
That’s not going to work for someone who’s pushed for time, or who hates being in the kitchen, so they would need a different plan attack. The point of even saying this is that you absolutely must plan your attack, even though it will likely be entirely different than mine.
Don’t go anywhere near the washing up
That is not your job my friend. Marigold kindly sent me a big old bundle of kit to present my family with for the big Christmas clean up operation, and I refused to touch a single bit of it. Because I cooked Christmas dinner, and that makes me exempt from any cleaning for at least 48 hours, as far as I’m concerned.
Particularly helpful in this undertaking (as I’m told) were the wiper upper, the no more elbow grease stainless steel pad – there were a lot of pans that needed a good scrubbing, and the cleaning me softly no scratch scourer. Huge thanks to Marigold for giving my family a helping hand.
It seems to me that everybody talks about cooking Christmas dinner as though it’s the most awful thing in the world, but I truly love it. Let go of the stress, embrace the mess, have a glass of champers, and get on with it like the Christmas Day trooper that you are.
This post is in collaboration with Marigold