Wednesday, 17 December 2008

On the front line of Christmas meal planning

So I was going to go to bed and read my book but then realised that my husband had already gone to bed and put off the light, which means I'll need to sneak in stealthily and not put the light on and not read and not wake him. And that's just pants. So instead I'll tell you about my evening.

I have spent the ENTIRE evening planning our Christmas eating extravaganza. Normally this is something I love doing. This year it's been hard work. Mainly because I'm tired. The bags under my eyes keep getting in the way of my pencil as I scribble out menu ideas. But also because last year and the year before I felt I kinda outdid myself (if I don't mind saying so myself) so really I can only go downhill from here.

I rushed out and bought the Nigella Christmas book today - that's how sad I am. It's not that I want to learn how to voluptuously lick bread sauce off a spoon, I just need some inspiration. And I found it. But sadly, I didn't limit myself to Nigella. I've also called on Gary Rhodes, several different Olive magazines from Christmasses past, my Cocktails book and a second Nigella book, with Delia loitering in the background as a standby.

My Christmas meal planning goes as follows:

List the meals you need to provide for (plus the fillerey bits in between - these are the bits that ratchet up your grocery bill as you buy for every possible contingency but find you end up eating party favourite platters well into July)

Decide what you want for each of those meals. This is the hard part - just when I've decided on something like gingerbread muffins for breakfast on Christmas morning, I realise that I really want to make gingerbread stuffing for the turkey and can't possibly have a double gingerbread whammy. And so I have to start again.

This is not dissimilar to trying to find an outfit to go out in. You decide on the white blouse so pick a white bra for underneath and black jacket with matching black boots but then realise that the white blouse has a mark on it so need to go for the purple blouse instead but that requires a darker bra and a different jacket and therefore different boots not to mention a necklace. This is how my Christmas meals go. Just when I've decided on maple glazed parsnips, I realise that they clash badly with the honeyed beans and off we go again.

Once I'm just about bleeding from the eyeballs from the decision making - and have long since forced my husband off to the safe confines of his bed where he no longer has to hear me debating the merits of red cabbage with apple vs pear - I have my menu.

I then need to go through each recipe (which obviously I've made a note of which of the myriad of books it's come from) and determine what ingredients I need to buy. This isn't a simple exercise. I need to go and check the cupboards each time to make sure we don't already have star anise or whatever inane item I'll require for this one recipe and never again. I invariably end up buying another three bottles of cloves when we already have two and forget to buy butter - or something else essential.

Once I have my shopping list (this is the stage I got to by the end of my four hours), I have to split it into my Ocado shop being delivered on Friday as that was the only available sodding day left. Vs the things I need to buy next week and those are split into supermarket vs farmers market.

And then, I need to work out a timetable as to when I'll be cooking what. This requires miliary precision and I'd really like to call in my husband on this given he's ex-army and all that, but he can't understand any of this. He seems to think that nipping out to M&S on Christmas Eve and buying whatever's left on the shelves is cool. That said, his grand contribution to the entire evening's food debacle was, upon me asking whether we had enough gin and vodka in the house, to say: 'Yes, we need to buy more glasses. Ours are tatty.'

Exsqueeze me? You want me to add household durables to my list of perishable food items? Do not fuck with the Christmas shopping list dude.

I am hyped up. I can't possibly go to bed now, despite utter exhaustion. My head is too filled with spicy nuts and soy glazed chipplotas to sleep. Now I know why the Night Before Christmas poem talks of 'visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads'. It's not a nice dream they're having. It's a poor mother somewhere having a sodding food planning nightmare.

Right, am off to breathe deeply in a darkened corner.


Ali said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ali said...

Poor you. I am only doing one meal and I am splitting that meal with my sister so it's not too bad.

Hope you were able to sleep.

katyboo1 said...

Jason wants me to cook roast beef. This is simple. I can do this. I do not argue. I have bought smoked salmon for my breakfast. He likes Shreddies whatever the time of year and the children are simple because they just require mountains of chocolates. We don't invite people over and yet it will still be hell.
I do not envy you, although I am waiting for my invitation to come and sample your culinary wares as they sound delicious. A red cross parcel for the needy of Glenfield would work just as well.

Home Office Mum said...

Thanks Ali - I did get some sleep but was back up at 5am making a spreadsheet with food columns. I am that sad.

Katyboo - shreddies, that Christmas breakfast of champions. Dust them with a bit of icing sugar and scatter on a few pomegranate seeds and voila, a festive feast.

Red cross parcel on its way. Not sure how well cold turkey travels though.

Susanna (A Modern Mother) said...

Just found your blog, wonderful! I added to the best of the British Mummy bloggers on

The Christmas edition of the British mummy blogger carnival is Tuesday, please send me a link to amodernmother (at) gmail (dot) com) if you'd like to participate.

many thanks!

Home Office Mum said...

Hi Susannah

Thanks for adding me. If I get five spare minutes today I'll send a link. But small boys are demanding my attention and I appear to have drunk too much wine last night, all of which is hampering my ability to type.