Well it's November. Half of you are beginning to lament the waning of autumn and the onslaught of winter, while the rest of us are moving into spring. The October Labour Day Weekend is over, Thanksgiving is round the corner but the next celebration for us is Christmas. Now I don't know about you but for me, Babysis, Clarebear and our newest member to the family Jessicapom (my newly returned nephew's girlfriend) are all about mucking around in the kitchen before Christmas. We love the preparation, trying something different, cheap, fresh ingredients and working on spectacular presentation. It never costs much but we adore putting in the effort to make simple food look and taste awesome.
Yet, every January . .there is a massive TV advertising campaign for Crisco Castle Hampers. The idea is that you start paying off your Christmas pogathon early and in December you receive a nice bundle of goodies to set you straight for the festive season. Just open the box, crank up the microwave and Christmas is spread before you in all it's culinary wonder.
So, while we prepare a menu of degustation entrees, glazed ham (often free because someone gets one for a Christmas bonus), Caesar Salad my awesome potato bake and rocket, pumpkin and almond salad and chocolate dip with assorted fruit and marshmallows,working class Australian seems to prefer a rather expensive, pre-prepared hamper.
Pushed for weeks after Christmas as fine yet inexpensive fare. Delivered to their doorstep, paid at $13.60 a week for the cheapy (that's $707.20 a year) and finger's crossed it will arrive on time. What perturbs me is the contents of said hamper, the look, the lack of nutritional value, the awesome boringness and lack of imagination and of course the cost! I manage to feed 12-15 on a couple of hundred dollars each year with breakfast included and plenty of leftovers for the following week. (I don't include alchohold but a Christmas staple is Bacardi for daquiries and a bottle of Baileys Irish Cream. Now here's some Castle Christmas fare:
NutriGrain - Breakfast cereal? Crikey doesn't everyone splash out on mangoes and croissants with strawberry preserve, at least at Christmas?OK they've thrown in some Blue Ribbon Ice Cream (kudos cos it's really buttery and delishy with strawbs) . . crappy bon bons (crackers) and spaghetti. Also a couple of tins of salmon, processed mince pies and wait for it . . Magie two-minute noodles (Pot Noodles for you Oirsh) Call me a snob, because when it comes to cheap, delicious well presented food, I am! Totally and unequivocally a food snob and the queen of the castle. My home is my castle and there'll be none of this going down! And just how far do they think one bottle of Yellow will go between 15 of us! Sheesh! Break out the thimbles!
Cadbury Dairy Milk - now I don't know about you but I haven't a problem with the old Cadbury and you yanks could take a lesson from the chocolatiers of the world because you just can't make chocolate (No . .Hershey's Peanut butter lip smackers do not qualify as chocolate!) But at Christmas? Lindt at the very least!
Moccona Instant Coffee: Oh please.
Arnotts Shapes: Supermarket hexagonal flavoured biscuits that would taint the flavour of a nice brie or Stilton with little salty snippets of chilli and 'barbecue' seasoning
Cadbury Roses Chocolates: Awful gooey centres and guess who always accidentally bites into the Turkish Delight. Sorry Turks but jelly made out of rosewater is disgusting.
Masterfoods Sauce: BBQ rather nice on eggs or steak. Tomato, an Australian Staple but you DON'T put bottled sauce on yer gobbler! Jesus I spend a day marinating the thing in apricoty sticky honey clovey stuff not to have it spoiled by a splodge of tomato sauce!
Chocolate Frogs: Now I don't know about you but I have a problem eating frogs, chocolate or otherwise but any chocolate that comes in a plastic bag with a hole in the top to slide onto a supermarket prong is not Christmas food!
Steggles Frozen Turkey: OK I suppose if you must go the Turk but frankly, I think it's bland, boring, nobody likes the dark bits and you have leftovers for months. We haven't done a Turkey for God knows how long although I'm tempted to do a Thanksgiving for friends this year because you yanks post some bloody nice recipes for stuffed Turkey.
Bird's Eye Oven Roasted Potatoes: No they're not! They're twice the price of the real deal and are reconstituted potatoes shaped into perfect little chopped spuds with unflavoured caramel on the outside to make them look brown. Potatoes just don't taste like that and they're cheaper to buy fresh.
Frozen Veg: The only frozen veg I ever buy are peas because I simply find it too hard to get the ones in the shell so I'll forgive the peas but hardly Christmas food.
Sarah Lee Sticky Date Pudding: Shove it up your date! Stodgy, expensive, tasteless . . .and not Christmassy at all!
Sausages: No comment other than a collection of lips and arseholes . .what beast I cannot say. To be fair to Chrisco's Castle collection, there is a ham. A yucky de-boned, wet ham so you don't even get to make pea and ham soup from the luscious centre.
Canned Fruit: In Australia, it's summer. Stone fruit is plentiful and cheeeeeeeeeep. I mean really cheap you can pick up a tray of peaches, nectarines, mangoes for less than $15 on a good day.
Vegemite: OK I'm now speechless, without speech.
Nobby's Nuts: Oh yes, only in the country where you have Coon Cheese (I kid you not) could you nibble Nobby's nuts?. . . no thanks.
Ok I was a little frazzled in 2007. My hair doesn't look like that any more even if my waistline does and I've reverted to screw-top chardy rather than the bubbly stuff but I still love preparing Christmas dinner, in my castle, with my subjects assisting in the kitchen rather than breaking out the can opener.