and all through the house, not a creature was stirring…
except me. I was more than stirring. I was waving my arms about and shouting.
“What do you mean a STIR-FRY!?”
The instigators of my wrath watched me in confused silence for a moment. Then Dad said,
“Well, a vegetable stir fry.”
“It’s going to be Christmas Day! You’re having GUESTS, and you’re going to serve them a VEGETABLE STIR-FRY?!”
“What’s wrong with that?”
For a second I wasn’t sure how to answer that question. Having been brought up in Britain, the association of Christmas and good quality food was almost innate.
“You’re supposed to make an effort for Christmas Day. That’s the point, isn’t it? To overindulge in GOOD food. Not a ten minute job with reduced mange-tout!”
“Well there’s that reduced chicken we found and the salmon. We thought we’d give them to you to take home but we can use them if you think the stir fry-won’t be enough.”
“You know how to cook a chicken?”
My parents are occasional fish eaters but are mostly vegetarian. It had probably been a while since they’d attepted to cook an animal of any reaonable size.
“We can cook a curry. That works with anything. I will cut the chicken and Mum can curry it.”
As I’ve described before, my parents’ curries are nothing like the excellent dishes you’d find on the websites of Sig or Mamta. They involve throwing at least a tablespoon of every spice in the house (and there are a lot of ten year old, unlabelled, powdered spices there) into a pot with the chicken and a heck of a lot of salt and boiling the mixture for several hours until solid.
I took a look in the fridge. There in front of me was a small but fairly good looking, free range, corn fed bird. It certainly was not something I’d want to be a victim of my parents’ currying. I was also fairly sure that Dad’s vegetable stir fry would be seasoned with at least half a bottle of soy sauce. Things were not looking good for this meal.
“So you have invited guests to your house for Christmas Day, and you’re suggesting you serve them a vegetable stir-fry and chicken curry?! And you want to butcher it yourself? Do you actually have a meat cleaver?”
“No, why would I need one?” he replied. At this point I completely lost my rag.
“WELL, WHAT WERE YOU GOING TO USE TO CUT UP THE CHICKEN? A PAIR OF SCISSORS?!”
“I have a bread knife.”
I cupped my head in my hands. Half an hour later, I’d convinced them to give me control of the chicken. I had no idea what I was going to do with it but ANYTHING would be better than what had been previously planned for it and we really needed an alternative to the inevitable soy-sauce fest that would be produced by my father.
But there was a problem. My parents don’t own many ingredients. There were no herbs, no butter and no winter vegetables. In fact there was nothing but the chicken, a lot of ancient unidentifiable spice and some mange tout. Christmas Eve at 11pm is not the best time to discover you need a trolley load of groceries. I also had the additional problem that the small chicken in the fridge was supposed to feed six people.