Christmas and COVID-19 can co-exist, as far as I know, but celebrations will undeniably be different this year. However, different doesn’t mean deletion, keep perspective. Let’s rip the bandaid off and acknowledge what we’ve all been trying to ignore since the start of December: houses will not be filled with people, we won’t be getting drunk at other people’s houses or even doing much kissing of strangers under mistletoe. Let that sink in for a minute. Now, let’s think of the things to look forward to—here’s how to make Christmas feel extra special this year.
Most of us (maybe I’m just speaking for myself here) hate Christmas music. This year however, I’ll probably start belting it out at the top of my voice (I started practicing a whole month early too). Maybe I bought a cheap keyboard and made some up of my own, real talent never tells. Maybe, just maybe, I’ve been doing it all wearing nothing but my underpants.
The best thing about Christmas music this year is knowing that we don’t have to listen to it in every supermarket we walk into, and on top of that, when next year comes around, we won’t take the same painful experience for granted. We might even enjoy it. And before you say it—yes, a vaccine might be available by Christmas 2021. Have a little hope, it’s the most wonderful time of the year after all…
No prezzie pressure this year, baby! You’ll only be getting presents for your nearest and dearest, if you do anything like exchange presents in the first place, that is. You don’t need to get anything for your brother’s girlfriend who you’ve only met once but was invited out of the blue (and simply out of politeness) to celebrate Christmas with your family. Her accepting this invitation was a Christmas miracle like no other. It’s less fun buying someone that you hardly know something that they’ll hardly like—money is best spent elsewhere, am I right?
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You can bet I’m going all in on Christmas food this year, not that I haven’t done in the past now that I’m thinking about it… Okay, at least this one thing won’t change. Now that I consider myself a lockdown chef and all that jazz, how hard can mince pies be to whip up anyway? Get in my belly!
Seeing as we haven’t had much else to procrastinate on, we might see Christmas decoration-making as our new pointless hobby. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been working on mine since November and my humble abode is literally a masterpiece—that’s what’s up.
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Just like a plus and a minus, negative scenarios have positives, and it’s totally up to you to find out what these are. We can either choose to mope around and whine all season long, or we can find the fun in it. Christmas day is still on the calendar, music is still playing, food is still on the table, you can get drunk and not publicly embarrass yourself by declaring your love out of seasonal loneliness to an ex and you won’t be forced to see people you don’t want to see. There are also people in the world without the option for any of these things. Do I need to go on?
If you hated Christmas before this, this article is not for you, but thanks for making it this far. And if you love it like I do, then keep your chin up. No matter what comes around the corner, Christmas was made for you and me.
As our social calendars fill up with work parties, ‘friendsmas’ roasts and gorging ourselves on the sofa, it may seem that leftover food and creating debris is unavoidable. There are always hundreds of roasties, litres of gravy, bowls of sprouts left untouched. The Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) states that between 30 and 50 per cent of all food produced globally goes straight into landfill, and in the midst of the climate crisis it’s vital we take responsibility for, and make fundamental changes to our consumption habits.
Read on for ten absolute crackers to suit a plethora of scenarios:
1. Take a lunch box everywhere
A solid opener, no-shame scavenging; stick your leftover roast potatoes in there, your mum’s half-eaten dessert, the rest of the cheeseboard no-one needed. It’s an imperative bit of kit, and if someone looks at it disapprovingly, it’s only because they’re jealous they didn’t think of it.
2. Classic leftover meals
So, you’ve now got a huge box of surplus meat and vegetables, then what? Forgotten over the last two generations, thrifty post-war meals using leftovers were national staples before the global food market made us all lazy and nutrient-deficient. Here are a few delicious options you could cook up after a big Christmas do.
– Toad in the Hole (Yorkshire batter and sausages traybake)
– Bubble & Squeak patties (mashed veg and spuds in fried cakes)
– Cheese & braised red cabbage toastie (with cranberry sauce)
– Turkey pasta bake with creamy mushrooms and thyme
– Broccoli and stilton soup (add a little gravy to the stock)
3. Love thy neighbour
If you live next to or near someone who you think might not be able to cook for themself, be a darling and take them over a hot meal. It’s no effort to plate up something from your leftovers and microwave it for them. If you’re feeling extra cute, leave a few After Eights and a cuppa tea.
4. Sprouts are boss
Being a former avoider, I’m now very much a brussel lout. These incredible flavour orbs are related to cabbage, aid enzymatic digestion and boost blood circulation. It’s best to peel bad leaves off all the uncooked sprouts you have left in one go, as it’s really boring. Try shredding in a sprout, apple, fennel bulb and caraway seed slaw with a honey and mustard dressing, or stirfry with onions, mushrooms and cream for a toast topping.
5. Pudding for breakfast
This one is for the heads. We all know cold spuds is a legitimate morning snack, but what about a slab of gateaux with your first coffee? Victoria sponge and builders’ tea? Christmas pudding with a herbal brew or lemon cheesecake and OJ? After a hefty sugar punch to complement the caffeine, prepare for a pre-lunch crash.
6. Wonderful wild herbs
Wonderful for so many reasons, including the fact that they’re very hardy so they grow absolutely everywhere, are easy to identify, and can help you spend no money and reduce your plastic consumption. Learn to harness their incredible flavours, because they lift everything—add chopped rosemary to roasting potatoes or a sprig of thyme in your G&T, steep mint and fennel in a pot after dinner for a digestive tea. Forage responsibly; don’t pick unless you’re certain, and never strip or uproot a plant.
7. Pickle it
Vegetable skins are delicious, packed with fibre and, if grown organically, host beneficial bacteria and minerals from the soil. If you can’t convince the chef to keep the skins on your carrots, don’t despair. Stealthily make this sour side dish; pickle with 150ml vinegar, 150ml water, 2 tbsp sugar and 1 tbsp salt, star anise, chopped garlic and a bay leaf. Heat on the hob until sugar melts, then add to skins in a bowl. They only need an hour to marinate, then whip them out at the dinner table and blow their tiny minds.
8. Surplus citrus
There will undoubtedly be tonnes of clementines in your vicinity, so nab some, slice thinly on the horizontal and dry on a radiator to create some beaut, fragrant decorations. String them together like a boss.
What about all the half-drunk bottles of wine and warm lager dregs littering the kitchen? Don’t throw down the sink, it’s a precious resource—naturally fermented liquids with deep umami and sour flavours. Stick them all in a labelled bottle in the fridge to store and use them to build a tasty base for a gravy or a stock. If you’re feeling experimental, add a raw vinegar mother and store for 6 weeks to turn this waste product into a delicious cupboard essential.
10. Local resource redistribution
There’s no need to eat every chocolate that enters your periphery; take those spare sweets to your local hostel or homeless shelter. And if you have any cooking or washing-up skills at all, you could be in-demand. Ring ahead to see if they’re serving hot meals over the holiday period, and whether they might benefit from your time and expertise.