This year's festive season will be unlike any we've seen before, but that's not a bad thing, says Neil Rankin.
My lack of enthusiasm for all things Christmas could be attributed to a lifetime of working within hospitality. Working harder in December than I do at any other time of the year has turned me into a joyless beast.
I felt the same about Sunday roasts when I worked in a pub. Sunday was the day that paid for everything, but also the day that the most complaints came in. Our numbers would go from 65 diners to near 400. The kitchen would have to start preparing on Monday.
The problem with pub roast diners (if they're successful) is that you need to take shortcuts. You can't roast a potato to order and have a Yorkshire cooked fresh with the veg and the meat at the same time, unless you have one chef to every table. Then there are the customers who expect extra gravy for free, and others who would like us to turn a medium-rare roast beef joint into a rare one. I could go on...
Christmas is far worse – it's a Sunday roast, but served to a pissed bunch of workmates. Most of them won't remember the food and all of them have an expectation of the day that will never be met. And unlike a regular Sunday roast, they're eating with people they don't really like, but have to pretend to like – their colleagues.
Christmas meals out are not really supposed to be about perfect food – if the food is perfect, it's a bonus. It's supposed to be about the company. But if you're stuck with Jimmy from accounts at your work Christmas meal, that's when the servers and kitchen feel the pain – it's all on us to save the day.
I chose to work in hospitality to get out of Christmas – I don't think I've ever really been a fan. My family Christmases were all disputes – and actual fighting. It was the ideal time for Mum to call out my cousin Calum for putting on weight, or for my granny to tell my mum she'd have preferred the food in the nursing home.
At the end of this terrifying year, maybe there's a little hope that all of us can, for once, take this time off. We'll be free from the office parties and the big family gatherings (as we're not allowed to get too close to granny). For me, that's the real gift in all this and a real reason to celebrate.
We'll be free from the office parties and the big family gatherings (as we're not allowed to get too close to granny). For me, that's the real gift in all this and a real reason to celebrate
It sucks that this was all the money we ever made in a year, but there's always next year – if we're not at war, or walking around like zombies because of this vaccine.
Let's just sit back and consider what we really want to do this Christmas. For me, it's a big wheel of Vacherin, a loaf of crusty bread and enough booze to sink a small ship. At the end of the night I'll be curled up with stomach cramps, contemplating a Baileys for some unknown reason, watching something I've seen a thousand times and making a toast to next year, because it can't be any worse than this… Can it?
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