At this point I think it’s fair to say that Christmas went very well. The house looked great, the food was enjoyed and people seemed to like their presents. I think that everyone had a good time, which is really the best you can say for family celebrations. I won’t go through the details of every dish, but there were two great successes – and two small disasters – that I believe to be worth sharing.
The first success was the table setting, which I must claim credit for. I laid out a new tablecloth, which had a bright, blue and green pattern of cornflowers. Then came the Christmassy placemats, the good dinner service and cutlery, the new water and wine glasses and the old (but rarely used) cloth napkins, which happen to go very well with the tablecloth. It looked splendid, if I do say so myself! There was only one problem, and this is where we get to the first small disaster. At our table there is room for eight chairs and there are eight chairs to go around it. In our cupboards there were eight Christmassy placemats, eight good dinner plates, eight sets of good cutlery (well, seven and a half), eight waterglasses and eight wineglasses. So, reasonably enough, I set out eight places at the table. There were nine people. And so, for all my hard work, I found myself sitting on an office chair, eating off a mismatched plate with mismatched cutlery, drinking from an old water glass – and straddling a table-leg. It was all right though because my family filled my plate with good food and my glass with my favourite fizzy drink. If anything I was more perturbed by the disturbance of my perfect table setting than the fact that I was the one on the corner.
Now on to the second success, which happens to be my mum’s first success at making a Pavlova. She was nervous about how it would turn out, but it was very good by my standards and I think the rest of the table would agree. So when we’d finished the main course, my mum took the Pavlova and the cream out of the fridge and put them on the kitchen bench. She then whipped the cream in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer. Can you see the second disaster coming? When the cream was just ready, my mum somehow managed to cut herself on the electric mixer. I was sitting at the table with my back to the kitchen when I heard a terrific swearing. I looked around expecting to see that the Pavlova had gone flying, or that the cream was slopped all over the place. Instead I saw Mum rushing to the bathroom clutching a bloody finger. Three of us jumped up to help. Thankfully the only non-related guest at the table was Mum’s friend from work, who is a doctor. (He was a rheumatologist specifically, but I guess he still remembered first aid training.) My aunt and I helped him to bandage Mum’s finger. As they were applying a last round of surgical tape, my dad came and tapped me on the shoulder. “Is she alright?” he asked.“I think so,” I replied. Mum was characteristically stoic and seemed more annoyed than in pain.”Good,” said Dad and then, “There’s a small problem.” “What’s that?” “There’s blood on the Pavlova.”
I looked at Dad and he motioned for me to follow him. We both walked back to the kitchen where the Pavlova was still sitting on the bench. It was perfectly intact (as was the bowl of cream) but was now spattered with fine red dots. I looked at Dad and he looked at me. We both tried to stifle our laughter. “I would still eat it,” Dad whispered to me. “Me too,” I agreed, and then glanced back at the family still seated at the table. By this stage everyone had returned from the bathroom and Mum was saying to go ahead and serve the Pavlova. I amusedly told everyone what had happened. They all agreed with us and decided to eat it anyway (it was a Pavlova after all). My aunt carefully wiped off the blood-dots with a damp cloth and then covered the whole thing with cream and raspberries and passionfruit. It was delicious.
I hope that everyone has had a very merry Christmas and a pleasant Boxing Day/St Stephen’s Day. May you always have enough room at the table and never get blood in the desert!