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December 17, 2018

G-Spot: ‘Tis the season to eat as if we are all experiencing a British winter

A traditional Swedish Christmas table
A traditional Swedish Christmas table

The madness known as Christmas celebrations is upon us. Those fortunate enough to have food to eat are preparing to gorge themselves. Waistlines will be ignored, diets forgotten and pot-bellies rubbed and patted like Buddhas bringing luck.

When I was growing up, Christmas food was mainly dependent on where were as a family and who we were with. If we were at either grandmother’s home, there would be stacks of chapati, roast goat and or chicken and pilau. With certain relatives, there was Turkey and Brussel sprouts for sure, but also barbecued goat.

As a grown-up single, I tended to prefer Christmas without the fuss and was quite happy to spend the day at home with the TV, having celebrated the night before. Then some years ago, I found myself  infected by the spirit of sharing and I began what would become a tradition, the Christmas Orphans’ party for me and other friends who, for whatever reason, were not doing the big family celebration and would be on their own on the day.

It was a casual bring your own booze and food (if possible) affair, but it was generally fun, except perhaps the first one. This was held on short notice and planned in a bar late on Christmas Eve. Things were bound to go wrong and so when the person who had promised to cook bailed, I had to get pizza for my guests. Fortunately there was a lot of booze and people soon got merry and forgiving.

Here in South Africa, Christmas food is very important as well as lucrative for retailers, who are very creative with their offers of traditional festive foods catering for practically every taste — even to the point of having offers on halal cuisine.

Nevertheless, what I have only just come to fully appreciate was just how seriously Capetonians take Christmas lunch and all the borrowed British traditions associated with it.

Apparently, it is considered downright unpatriotic and even a sign of bad upbringing for Capetonians to encompass, imagine, devise or intend to substitute glazed gammon and an oven-roasted leg of lamb and all the trimmings with anything else, such as a barbecue, for instance. It would seem that only white South Africans get a pass on this front and are allowed, if not expected, to have a Christmas braai.

I learnt this the hard way after I had supported and encouraged my other half’s plans to step out of his “traditional Christmas” role, where he spends the whole of Christmas Eve slaving in front of a hot stove, preparing Christmas lunch. I liked the idea of a chilled-out Christmas with the extended family with a barbecue going, and none of the stuffy sit-down dinner nonsense.

When some of the family and a couple of friends learned about this change to the usual Christmas fare, there were slack jaws and even an apoplectic outburst from one normally chilled-out friend, for whom this idea would apparently have the ancestors spinning in their graves.

In the face of such pressure, we have decided to stick with tradition this year to save ourselves outright public shaming. Maybe next year.

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