I caught up with my good friend Marie this week, and our conversation turned to Christmas dinner – what we were cooking, who we were cooking for AND how we were serving it..
Marie – who is a former florist and has a Great eye for detail, described her new silver chaser plates, her new white tablecloth, her sparkling cutlery… she’s got it all planned out, even down to laying the table on Christmas eve and serving croissants in the living room for Christmas breakfast so her beautiful table can remain undisturbed until dinnertime..
I pondered my own preparations for Christmas dinner: we have the personnel – me, Hubs, Melon, The Boy and our 20 year old nephew (who will probably be entering the recovery stages of his festive hangover as we serve up). I’m probably cooking chicken, as it is the only meat that I can guarantee everyone will eat.
As for presentation, I had no plans. I’ve got a wipe-clean red tablecloth, and a couple of gold platters (plastic, unbreakable). I’ve got cutlery. I’ve got wine glasses (no two the same size, but they do the job). I was planning on moving the fruit bowl and the pot of crayons off the table before we eat. I really hadn’t thought any further ahead than that.
When I got back, The Boy had his nap, and I started to flick through magazines that we had lying around. Loads of them had Christmas features with suggestions for festive menus, and arty shots of immaculately laid out dining tables.
I started to fantasize about a crisp white linen tablecloth, porcelain dinner set, an elegant table centre. Something classic and stylish that would make dinner feel like a real special celebration.
Then I sat down for supper with the children. Tonight I served smoked mackerel fillets, home-made chips, salad and peas. Both the kids were tired – Boy is teething again and Melon was all jumbled from her Christmas party at school. They both started eating – so far so good. A slice of mackerel for Melon, a radish for Boy, both new foods, great going…
Then it descended into the usual chaos.
Melon, who has felt the need to wash her hands a lot whilst eating this week, decided that it would be best to shove both her hands into her cup of blackcurrant cordial in between mouthfuls of food.
The Boy began pelting me with handfuls of food – both fresh and semi-chewed. As I tried to dodge the flying mackerel and stop him, he made his “bwurgh” noise, which means “watch out lady, I’m going to go CRAZY”. Then he backhanded his entire dinner plate onto the floor. I dropped to my hands and knees to salvage what I could, Hubs told Boy off, but he just went “bwurgh BWURGH BWURGH” and threw his cup on my head.
I staggered back to my feet, in time to see Melon in a real burst of vestibular-input-seeking, twist round and lie across her chair on her stomach, scripting “how many boobies? One, two.TWO BOOBIES!! Momma’s giant pink boobies!!”. She sat back up when asked, and proceeded to dissect her mackerel with the precision of a microbiologist, before eating it shred by painstaking shred.
By this point, sensing imminent leftovers, the Dog and both the cats had started to circulate. This delighted the Boy, who began to aim mackerel missiles at the dog. The cats were seriously annoyed that they weren’t getting any fish, and began meowing and stalking each other.
Hubs cleared the animals out of the room, but no sooner had he touched buttocks to seat when Boy said “BWURGH” again, and backhanded his plate back onto the floor. He threw his remaining peas in all directions, Melon shoved her hands back into her blackcurrant and splashed the whole lot out of the cup. Boy realised that peas would squish if he poked them with his finger, and set to work with great enthusiasm
I finished my meal. Hubs finished his.
We looked around. There were peas stuck to us, to the wall, to the children. Mackerel fragments were scattered over the table and in the fruit bowl. There was a small lake of blackcurrant in the centre of the table. Melon removed her top and was lying on her stomach again shouting “fish fish!!”. The cats had reappeared and joined the dog on the great scavenger clean up operation that was going on under the table.
I thought about those beautifully laid out dining tables in the magazines, but I decided, as the last pea struck me on the forehead and the dog licked some stray mackerel off my thigh, that I’m sticking to wipe-clean, unbreakable dining options this year.
In fact, I may just put the tablecloth on the floor and serve dinner in a trough where we can all help ourselves…