Christmas A – Z… “V”

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Is for…

Vegetables: How much is too much? Considering the amount of meat(s), stuffing(s), pigs in blankets, bread sauce, cranberry sauce, port sauce etc we have piled up on the table at Christmas dinner it’s surprising we feel the need for vegetables at all. But whether a passing nod at ‘healthy eating’ or a genuine desire for a bit of greenery and variety, the fact is we have an ever-expanding list of vegetables that are now regarded as Christmas staples.

vegHere, for the record, is the Old Skool vegetable selection I remember from my childhood:

  • Roast potatoes
  • Roast parsnips
  • Peas, marrowfat [1]
  • Sprouts (obviously)
  • Carrots
  • Swede

Over the years, at the behest of various sleb chefs, we have added:

  • Roast celeriac
  • Braised red cabbage and apple
  • Broccoli (and)
  • Cauliflower (au gratin)

Now to be fair we did drop the peas at some point, but to this day some of my older siblings will moan at the oversight, even though they are four veg ahead on the deal.

And every Christmas the same cry goes up – ‘Why did you do so much veg, we never eat it’  – but try striking any one from that list and somebody will start feeling left out.

It’s not that any of us want more than three or four veg: it’s just that no two of us want the same three or four. And there’s the rub.

I quite fancy leeks this year, mixed through the cauliflower and broccoli gratin, but all things considered think it probably wise to keep my gob shut.

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Vino Veritas, in: This Latin phrase (in wine is truth) has caused all sorts of trouble over the centuries by suggesting that the things we say and do while pissed as farts reveal our innermost and truest emotions. This, of course, is a load of old bollocks baloney, as anyone who has woken up after a night on the tiles with vague recollections of almost starting a fight/love-affair/book group/gym membership or divorce proceedings will tell you. The reality is that wine – all alcohol in fact – stimulates not that part of the brain responsible for honesty, but that small, shrivelled knot of pustulent-purple neurons at the base of the amygdala controlling gross stupidity, verbal diarrhoea, and the gag reflex.

One other effect of alcohol is that it acts as a zoom lens; blowing up whatever tiny sleight or insecurity you may be feeling, whatever miniscule twinge of annoyance, until it fills your entire field of vision. This is why some grown women, even staunch no-nonsense feminists, may burst into tears at the realisation that somebody else in the room is wearing the same dress as them, or certain grown gentlemen pacifists roll up their sleeves in readiness for a punch up with their best mate because they can’t agree to disagree over which Led Zeppelin album is the best. Or vice versa – let’s not suggest for a moment to anyone that only women worry excessively when drunk about their appearance or that only men can get aggressive. Heaven forefend – gender stereotyping like that would be incredibly inaccurate and offensive and possibly invite aggressive responses. Especially if you, dear reader, had been drinking.

Yet another well-documented effect of drinking is the beer-goggle phenomenon that transforms some fug-puggly lump in the corner into a Brad or Angelina and the boring little fart/fartess at the bar into a witty, Beer-Goggles-Bow-in-to-Wowsophisticated and charming prince or princess. We’ve all been there and done it, and may have even benefitted from it when the young lady or gentleman responding favourably to our advances has been wearing his or her own beer-goggles. Of course, beauty is only skin deep and you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but that’s poor consolation if on your second date you find that the lady of your dreams was really the stuff of nightmares or that Prince Charming was, in fact, a frog. And if you were both ‘goggled-up’ on first acquaintance that nightmare princess or froggy prince could well be experiencing a similar bump on landing back on earth as the one you just had.

American Indians of old, I once heard, had a very healthy outlook on drunken behaviours, believing that anything said or done under the influence ‘didn’t count’ and so should just be ignored. Now obviously in the complex society in which we live today such a laissez-faire attitude would be unwise – we really do need to ensure that people don’t try operating cars or heavy machinery while under the alfluence of incahol, for example – but such potentially dangerous exceptions aside (and/or, it goes without saying, but-I’ll-say-it-anyway-lest-any-point-scoring-pissweasels-are-reading, incidents that involve physical assault or abuse),  should we really hold people accountable for the stupid things they say and do when undergoing an out of their gourd experience? I mean, if somebody’s in a happy drunken mood and insists on telling you that they ‘bloody love you,’ you wouldn’t dream of suing them for breach of promise the next morning for reconsidering the extent of their feelings, would you? So why hold it against them that they called you a complete and utter nob because they thought you had nicked their peanuts while they were in the toilet or expressed their admiration for your wife/husband/boyfriend/girlfriend/mum/dad in terms that were a little too glowing and included some rather lewd hand signals? Come on… get a sense of perspective, why don’t you? They’re pissed, that’s all.

No, sod the wine: if you really want to know somebody’s innermost thoughts try shooting them up with sodium pentothal – it’s much more reliable and they’re less likely to be sick in your lap. And remember, ‘In Vino Bove Stercore.’

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Vol-au-Vents: Once a mainstay of Christmas parties they’re now sadly pretty much a thing of the past. They enjoyed a brief renaissance a few years ago, gaining a kind of post-ironic iconic status along with Mateus Rosé and prawn cocktails, but seem to havevol au vent slipped back down the Christmas charts again. Which is a pity, ‘cos I like ‘em – especially the mushroom ones. But not the egg mayonnaise ones, which, let’s face it, smell while you’re eating them exactly like they’re going to smell when exiting the body as flatulence 12 hours later.

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[1] We didn’t have a freezer for fresh-as-the-moment-when-the-pod-went-pop peas, but tinned marrowfat served us well. Tinned garden peas were (and still are, I assume) horrible.

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