Sunday 16 December 2018

Masterchef madness in kitchen as season of excesses takes its toll

Parking meter stress added to Christmas stress for many this year
Parking meter stress added to Christmas stress for many this year

David Looby

Something caught my eye over Christmas amid the goodwill, joviality and bonhomie.

Let's call it Bolloxology: a peculiar Irish trait wherein something within us loves to give something, only to make it as difficult as possible for the receiver to receive.

Take for instance, local councils (this could equally apply to Government sports grant applications). In the run up to Christmas most offer free parking. The only problem is people don't know about it. In some cases the parking is for a limited period, say from 10.30 a.m. until the following morning. In other cases it is free all day, but nowhere on the parking meters is this apparent. I saw numerous uninformed victims of this Bolloxology around my hometown at Christmas and it made me lose some of my festive mojo. I mean, would it kill the council - who are, incidentally, no strangers to using forests of trees in documentation - to stick a 4 inch by 4 inch notice on the pay meters for drivers, many of whom are helping to pay their wages.

While I'm in rant mode, what's with chefs, who, having cooked all Christmas Day - not being afforded the opportunity to conk out on the couch having dished out the regal feast they had prepared. I know of a chef, (Ok it's me!), who spent seven hours cooking Christmas Day and yet when the time came for volunteers to volunteer for dish washing duties, was still called upon for such a Herculaen chore.

Oh yes, I went all out this year. Like a Masterchef professional cook preparing a feast for the critics table, I asborbed numerous festive recipes in the run up to Christmas. Purring Nigella was endured, jumpy Jamie (Oliver) tolerated, Nigel Slater jotted down.

In the end I distilled the success of Christmas dinner down to one simple principle: excess! The sacrifice this involves is unprecedented in its scale. It began the night before Christmas when all through the house, only one feckin eejit was stirring, yours truly - a 5ft 11 cheese scoffing mouse (cook). To be more specific, I was bating the flesh off chicken thighs 'to extract MAXIMUM' flavour for a gravy of the ages, featuring herbs, star anise and port! Made the gravy by 11 p.m.

From yelps of excitement the next morn at 7 a.m. at the gifts the Man in Red brought - I was thrust into the time pressured environment of the kitchen, having taken the time, naturally, to marvel in the magic sets, bastketball rings, jelly and chocolate making devices etc. As per Jamie the turkey was taken out two hours in advance of cooking. Breakfast was cooked. The spud peeling process began, the ham, (which was supposed to have been resting in water for 24 hours), was doused in ginger beer and water and hobbed to boil. Things were hectic for this cooking army of one.

The chestnut and apricot stuffing was duly stuffed into the the bird, (the main cavity being stuffed with sage and oranges), which was then slathererd in butter and sprinkled with nutmeg of all things. The only thing Jamie neglected to have me stuff the bird with was a Christmas tree - just for that festive aroma!

The butternut squash - infused with saffron - was baked. I cooked the mash, roasties (perfectly crunchy), the chorizo oil brussel sprouts and broccoli for the children. Dinner was sensational, but did I enjoy it, No! Mental, physical and emotional exhaustion put paid to that. Next year I'm going out for Christmas dinner.

New Ross Standard