A series of anecdotes with or without any connection to the running of a restaurant.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Grumpy and Sorry...

In Algeria, in my younger days, apart from receiving the odd present from rich relatives who rubbed shoulders with our French colonizers, the nearest I came to Christmas was getting a slice of Yule log at school.

Once the French left in 1962, no one celebrated Christmas any longer.

I have been in the UK for nearly 31 years but I am yet to get to grips with this Christmas fever.
For the first few married years I tried to rebel against the excesses. Then I realised I was barking up a deaf ear, so I gave in and reluctantly let myself be swept by a tide of commercialism.
Although I only ever had one person to buy a present for, I always entered Boots at around 4pm on Christmas Eve for the usual bottle of overpriced perfume just to prove that I was doing it under duress.

Most years relatives were invited to a feast cooked by yours truly. In an act of non-violent resistance I sometimes overcooked the turkey or served al-dente sprouts on purpose.

One year I attempted to break the mould and decided to go for something more elaborate. I boned a guinea fowl, a chicken and a goose and played Russian dolls with them, stuffing one into the next. The end result when sliced looked like Blackpool-Rock and tasted of fowl. Though the plates were totally cleaned, the (overheard) general consensus was: "Why doesn't he bloody stick to normal stuff?"
I cursed under my breath mentioning in the process Jesus, Mary and the three wise men (Ernie, Dennis and Clock) but remembered the Spirit of Christmas, uncorked another bottle of wine and dived into a box of Thorntons' Alpinis. These helped dull the pain of defeat until the Queen came to the rescue at 3pm with her Christmas Broadcast and lulled me into a well-deserved four-hour siesta in my armchair.
Waking up to an empty house and a mountain of washed-up dishes, I was wracked with guilt for at least long enough to open another bottle of Chateauneuf, grab a slab of Camembert and sink back into my chair.

Over the years I have been a grumpy spectator and subsequently an unwilling participant in this annual torture that is Christmas. Torture on millions of turkeys that do not have a clue why they are rounded up at the end of November, torture on restaurant employees who try and feed hordes of inebriated customers, torture on shop assistants who know that half the items they have sold will be returned on Boxing day, torture on parents who have to keep up with the Joneses, but most of all torture on unhappy people who have to put on a front just because it is Christmas…

In spite of all this, if one is surrounded by the right people, Christmas must be a magical time.

Photo courtesy of Guardian


Blogger The Tart said...

That photo is just too cool!

Ditto on all the Christmas drama ... I have taken Xmas off this year, natch! Am fortunate to have a friend to does the same ... hmmm, I do love the cranberry jelly though!

The Tart
; *

20/12/06 2:04 PM  
Blogger Mary said...

Awesome picture Cream.
Yes Christmas can be exhausting but you are exactly right. IF you've got the right people w/you all is well.

20/12/06 3:09 PM  
Anonymous Kingston Girl said...

you scrouge!

Have to admit I'm a Christmas lover! Fortuantely my family tends to keep the presents fairly low-key. Otherwise, I love it all - the carols, the food, seeing everyone ...

20/12/06 4:07 PM  
Anonymous Kingston Girl said...

you scrouge!

Have to admit I'm a Christmas lover! Fortuantely my family tends to keep the presents fairly low-key. Otherwise, I love it all - the carols, the food, seeing everyone ...

20/12/06 4:07 PM  
Blogger Hayden said...

what I love (as you've observed), is to treat friends to a good feast and talk into the night. what I hate, is that for most people, Christmas time is too busy to indulge in these simple pleasures.

too many mandatory and dreaded parties(and often the toxin of dread turns into the toxin of excess drinking!), too much frantic shopping.

This year I'm wondering if I dare suggest that next year we offer a donation to charity instead. I don't want to offend, or make friends think that their carefully chosen gifts aren't appreciated - but it just isn't important to me to get more 'stuff.' Maybe I'll suggest it before my birthday next spring, and that will turn us all gently in that direction.

20/12/06 5:09 PM  
Blogger Cream said...

Jody, enjoy your Christmasless holiday and cranberry jelly!

Mary, I do like Christmas really, but it seems to be getting out of hand these days.

KG, that is exactly what I love about Christmas. Food, family and friends. Scrooge, moi?

Hayden, exactly my feelings. For many years now, we have organised a raffle for the NSPCC and instead of giving cards to customers and staff, I just add the money to the raffle. The practice of giving cards is so way out these days! Some are found unopened weeks after Christmas.
Good idea about toning down the giving. Some people may take it the wrong way but if your friends are on the same wavelength as you, then they will understand.

20/12/06 5:38 PM  
Blogger Daphne Wayne-Bough said...

I can only remember one truly enjoyable Christmas in my life, that was the first Christmas I didn't go back to England! I spent it with Son of the Desert, and his mate Le Flic. We ate foie gras, smoked salmon, goose or duck or something else that wasn't turkey, Christmas Pudding, drank some excellent wines, all off a coffee table, and had a great day. It's been all downhill from then on.
Expectations are too high at Christmas, largely due to the hype, the telly and the commercialism. Oh and the alcohol. I shall have a few nice goodies, with my personal charity case (Scrumpy), watch some TV and thank the lord that there's no such thing as Boxing Day on this side of the Channel.

Still haven't received any emails. Are you hitting the reply button? Very strange ...

20/12/06 5:48 PM  
Blogger Ale said...

its useless to rebell against traditions... whats so bad anyway- its something you get to participate in with your whole family (and everyone else in the country) i think that's more fun then evrysingle person doing their own thing... in the USA - christmas craze is the ONLY thing that people do 'together' during the rest of the year everyone crawls back into their own holes with their own satelite dishes transmitting their own programs from the "mother countries" so i'm all for the craze. even if its silly and we buy overpriced things.

20/12/06 6:29 PM  
Anonymous guyana-gyal said...

Christmas? I'm playing Majda Al-Roumi LOUD. I just paid for a whole cow, sorry, bull, for Qurbani [je suis seule chez moi, ma mere est en[?] dans[?] Les Etats Unis, pardon my French] and I'm fretting that I gave the wrong names of the people - grandparents and so on we're doing the Qurbani for and the meat is for the poor people, I hope they receive it all. Christmas you said?

20/12/06 7:22 PM  
Anonymous guyana-gyal said...

You shoulda hear me laugh out loud at your act of non-violent resistance.

What were you trying to do with the guinea fowl, chicken and goose? Like what they do with the sheep, bull, camel and so on?

20/12/06 7:28 PM  
Blogger Hayden said...

gg, thanks for posting that. I didn't know about Qurbani so I went and looked it up. Its good to know other traditons, and I appreciate the chance to learn.

20/12/06 10:04 PM  
Blogger Caroline said...

Fabulous photo!

Now I understand the spirit in which one my nephews turned off the oven one year... lunch was very late...

Merry Christmas Mr Grumps!

20/12/06 10:08 PM  
Blogger andrea said...

The Christmas commercial frenzy has been a thorn in my side for years, too. We have simplified somewhat and yet it's hard not to get sucked in. Still, the magic of Christmas for children can't be denied...
Come cook at my house this year! (gorgeous photo -- not too many of those in Algeria, eh?)

20/12/06 10:48 PM  
Anonymous Caribbean Colors said...

You said it right!
This reminds me of psycho relatives who place an disproportionate amount of effort and sentiment. Supergirl and I have a $15 limit on our gifts.

Bah Humbug!

P.S. we have the ham and turkey, but somebody besides me will be cooking it, because I have to work all day (WOOHOO! Making money!)

21/12/06 3:47 AM  
Blogger Cream said...

What a feast, Daphnée! We get out Christmas pud from Kendal in the Lakes! Better than Marks and Spencers! Boxing Day? Why? Don’t you enjoy the extra day off to recover? I have got myself a hotmail address just for you: krimsong at hotmail dot co dot uk…

Ale, I know it is useless to rebel but one cannot just accept everything without a little fight. Well, sometimes it’s not a bad thing for people to get together one day a year, really.

Gigi, you are so worldly! I had never heard of this singer but googled and she reminds me of many Lebanese and Egyptian singers I listened to in Algeria. You would say “En France, En Angleterre but when it is plural like States you say:“Aux Etats Unis.” Your French is very good!!!
So your mam is gallivanting eh, and you have to buy a cow! My father will be buying a little lamb.
Yes, I’ve heard of that practice of stuffing a zoo into a nature reserve but my kitchen is not big enough.

Glad you agree with me, Hayden. Gigi is a font of information.

Caro, I wish I had taken that photo myself! They say that the National Grid hits its maximum on Christmas Day morning when all the ovens in the UK are switched on at the same time. Merry Christmas to you too!

Andrea, I know that everybody moans about Christmas and promises to cut down the following year but it just snowballs and nobody can do anything about it any more. I wish I could come and cook at your house! What a getaway that would be! I hope you saw the credit for the photo goes to The Guardian. It does get cold in Algeria. In fact, when I phoned my sister on Sunday, it had already snowed on the surrounding hills.

Lee, working on Christmas Day!!! I haven’t done that for over 20 years… Don’t know who’s wrong. Psycho relatives, eh!!! Hahaha.
$15? What does that get you?

21/12/06 12:26 PM  
Blogger Chill Daddy said...

I'm very pro-Christmas mainly because I've got four wide-eyed munchkins to share it with (and I'm a Christian with a deep appreciation of the reason for the holiday). I am, however, opposed to Christmas music and glowing plastic things in your yard. Do they do all that gaudy 'decorating' on your side of the ocean?

21/12/06 1:11 PM  
Blogger Cream said...

CD, I think that, after that "Home Alone" film people over here have started copying the States. They decorate their houses just to get in the papers or on the telly!
I think you are doing the right thing by not forgetting what Christmas is all about.

21/12/06 1:20 PM  
Anonymous guyana-gyal said...

Merci, Cream. Ah, oui, Aux Etats Unis.

It's my 60 yr. old aunt who sent me the Majda Al Roumi CD!

21/12/06 2:49 PM  
Blogger Cream said...

I can imagine your aunt gently swaying to Majda! Guess what? In Egyptian the "j" is pronounced "g"!
Like the departed Gamal Abd En Nasser!
Gee, Gigi, I am outdoing myself today... French, Roman and now Egyptian! A fine list of fonts!

21/12/06 5:52 PM  
Blogger Cherrypie said...

I wish I'd found that photo first. I covet it greatly. I've always hated Christmas, probably for reasons very similar to those of which you speak.

Here, have one of my humbugs x

21/12/06 6:11 PM  
Blogger Cream said...

Frozen Cherrybabes! You can use it any time you want.
I bet you are frozen down there because, oop ere, it's not just cherries that are!
You may hate Christmas but I am sure you still do it and enjoy it really, don't you?
Nice humhug. x

21/12/06 6:28 PM  
Blogger lettuce said...

yeah you're right Cream, its all to do with the people (which I think is what the original story was all about, actually.....)

Can be awful. Can be great.

lets hope....

21/12/06 11:13 PM  
Blogger LDahl said...

We paid our taxes yesterday, now how much more traditional can you get, eh?
Merry Christmas Cream, have a happy holiday season whether you like it or not!!! hehehe!

22/12/06 3:58 AM  
Blogger Cream said...

Thanks, Lettie! I have a feeling this one is going to be very hard. Merry Christmas. x

L, I sent my VAT return yesterday so I am sure someone somewhere could have a very good Christmas out of it. You too have yourself a great holiday.

22/12/06 9:20 AM  
Blogger Christine said...

I agree Cream, Christmas is all about family and friends for me. It's hard to buy for my husbands large family but I manage to get it done every year.

I hope you have a lovely holiday!


22/12/06 7:40 PM  
Blogger ValGalArt said...

You really are such a great writer Cream!

31/12/06 6:40 PM  

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