We take turns with my son and his family on who is spending Christmas with whom and where – his partner is Hungarian, so one year they fly over to Hungary for the festive season, and one year is spent with us in England. The alternate years they are in Hungary, we spend with my partner’s family – It has worked just grand the past few years and fair all around. So this year was ‘’our’’ turn – however my son and his partner bought a house this year, and wanted to celebrate their first Christmas in their very own home. How lovely I thought, and throughout the latter part of the year, this was the plan – we would take the hours’ drive to theirs, and be thrilled with not having to prepare Christmas lunch, and at the same time would come back home for Boxing day. My partners Mum normally does Boxing day for the family, but she is really getting on and has not been well of late – so we volunteered, because remember – we didn’t have to prepare Christmas lunch.
In the run up to Christmas it became apparent that the Hungarian contingents had invited themselves to my son and their daughters for the festivities – two weeks’ worth. Not playing by the rules, but its Christmas after all. Obviously there was a bit of stress about – like how they were going to seat 8 adults and a two year old around a table. The table wasn’t big enough, not enough chairs, just not enough of anything. Not to mention the fact that this is a couple who make the term ‘’laid back’’ feel tired. There was talk of a Hungarian traditional Christmas, which caused me to have a bit of a nervous giggle, as I really wasn’t looking forward to fish soup for Christmas lunch. But in good humour went along with it, and thought that doing something different would be okay– and would be a nice change to see what Hungarian foods are on offer. My G was really up for it. On a few times my sons partner was complaining that there are no carp in the UK and she just has to have this for the fish soup – I suggested she go and ask their local fishmonger if they can get it – I’m sure it must be available as there are many Eastern Europeans living in England, and all have similar dishes to celebrate Christmas. At any rate, we left it to the hosts to decide what they are doing, and I offered assistance on a regular basis, as some mothers do. Needs must and all.
One weekend late November we went to visit them, and they had replaced the dining room table in the run up to Christmas – really lovely table, big enough to seat at least 10, but no additional chairs, these would be sourced later. Typically my son had now also decided to just take control of everything – which is not unusual. He planned a gazebo for outside, (mid-winter) with heaters and Christmas decorations, and a spit on the braai for the meats. We are South African; my G is British, so quite a mix with the Hungarians thrown in. Therefore my sons’ motto, ñ Boer maak ñ plan (a farmer/man makes a plan) is like water on a ducks back with everyone else. I told him it might be do-able even festive with some fairy lights, so long as the weather holds, and the braai is outside of the tent area. But she was still looking for a carp. I had a silent sigh of relief, thinking that there might be some form of meat on offer, and not just fish soup. Oh and potato salad, my son asked me to make some as it always goes down well. My assumption at this stage is a South African style Christmas dinner. And we all know what assumptions are.
By the second week in December we had pretty much finished all shopping and planning for Christmas day pressies and Boxing day. I had baked a Christmas cake a month or so before. I sent a message to the family chat group and sometimes to each of them individually as I would often get no response , to ask some random questions in offering assistance – there had also been no mention of desserts at this point – so the messaging started to the group chat –
Then to directly to my son days later, as I hadn’t heard from either of them for ages –
Up until this stage – the 21st December, we were going to have spit roasted joints of undetermined meat with potato salad for Christmas lunch, dessert was a yule log and Christmas cake. I don’t know what meat, so ask the questions and suggest –
My son says further –
I had to re read ‘’and just thinking sheathed a flatly’’ three times, I think it made sense on the third attempt. We had a quick phone call, during which it was mentioned that he is buying cutlery – which I cut short as I was having a haircut, so the messaging continued –
You what? 1 remaking leg of lamb? I wasn’t too sure about that one, but then –
And just to be sure asked my son again –
And get no response so ask again a few hours on – this time the group chat –
At this stage I was confused – I don’t need to bring potato salad either? What was the other ‘’thing’’ then, surely if you refer to either, there should have been a choice in the first place. – So what did I miss? And now we need plates? WTF?
First my son asked what we are doing, and the plate issue comes up again –
I had one Bailey’s to many at this point, and for confirmation ask group chat –
Ah yes – the other ‘’ thing’’ was the flatty chicken, so I now assumed I don’t need to take anything other than the desserts, because I eventually get a further response –
At last – Christmas day arrived, and G and I are up at 6. Santa had arrived, so I took Mr P for a walk, we had a toasted bagel and coffee, opened our pressies, had a shower and hit the road. The roads were glorious – no traffic, no lorries and we arrived at their house bright eyed and bushy tailed 10h20 Christmas morning. My excitement was relatively short lived however, as only my son answered the door, everyone else was either still sleeping, or in bed. At least the fire was already on the go in the back yard. No gazebo though.
As the morning comes and goes, everyone eventually came downstairs; we shared pressies, took lovely memory photos. The fire outside was doing well, and then my son realised that, besides the lamb, the turkey crown alone weighs 6 kg. At this stage we needed calculators out to work out how long Godzilla needed to cook for, at which point my son has realised that keeping coals alive for 3 hours will be tricky, because he couldn’t find charcoal anywhere in mid-winter. No kidding? But he had bought quite a few bags of wood, and also chopped up a vast amount of old pallets he had been hoarding. The cooking of the meat was then sorted.
It was very clear that while my son was outside trying to get the joints of meat cooked, no one else had any intention of cooking any other food. The Hungarian granddad was given potatoes to peel, other than that there was an uncomfortable moment of everyone not really knowing what’s going down. Were we having Hungarian/South African or a British Christmas lunch? We were shown everything that had been bought, even the recipes – but there was no plan on the how or indeed who, was going to do the ‘’cooking.’’ It was to be a British traditional Christmas lunch then.
G and I decided just by looking at each other – let’s just get stuck in and get on with it. Everything from the word go was a struggle – an oven that didn’t work properly with only one shelf, not enough pans, pots, roasting pans to cook and prepare food for 8 people. My sons partner did breeze into the kitchen to make cocktails, and asked if we wanted any – we both declined getting to hot and flustered with stuff in different stages of cooking everywhere – so she just said that if no one else wants a cocktail she will have to get drunk alone, and left the kitchen cocktail in hand. Bloody hell.
In between the chaos we did have a lot of laughs, and in no time all the veg was peeled and on the go, and potatoes piled high in one dish in the oven to roast. This left us with a conundrum about how to cook the pigs in blankets!! There was nothing left to use and no space in the oven, even the parsnips were cooked in a frying pan on the hob. So after some thought, and using the same motto, ñ Boer maak ñ plan (a farmer/man makes a plan) asked my son if he had sosatie sticks (kebab sticks) . And he did have – such an exciting moment it was!! I then laced the pigs in blankets on the sosatie sticks, and they went straight to the braai – job done.
Lunch turned out to be superb – even with the ‘’popping things with paper crowns and bad jokes’’. I must say that if you ever have a shortage of oven space and need to cook joints of meat, don’t be shy of using a barbecue – the meat was beautifully done. And the pigs in blankets – well they didn’t touch sides. Our family Christmas Lunch turned out to be just the best.