As the festive season rolls around, websites, magazines and cookbooks are overflowing with delicious, mouth-watering Christmas recipes and beautifully adorned tables heaving with banquets fit for the Royal Family. What they don't show, though, is the dark and sinister side to festive feasts – Christmas cooking can be a health hazard, people! For every droolworthy web page portraying a juicy turkey, you'll find another from a fire department, chiropractic practice or emergency department warning of the hazards of Christmas cooking. It seems there's a plethora of injuries, conditions and threats to our lives that only come at this time of year. Think we're joking? Read on…
When it comes to Christmas cuisine capable of inflicting grievous bodily harm, turkeys are public enemy number one. Here are just some of the ways turkeys can wreak havoc on we poor unsuspecting humans.
Frozen turkey to the toe
Frozen turkeys have four distinct drawbacks. They are large, they are heavy, they are awkward and they are slippery as all get-out. Couple this with the fact that the people hauling them about are generally stressed, harried and hurried, and you have the perfect recipe for several kilos of frozen bird to descend on your toes or foot, with the damage caused akin to having a cannonball land on you from a great height. Forget camel toe, it's turkey toe that's the real danger to human existence.
Turkey back injury
You don't need to drop a frozen turkey on your toe to appreciate that, whether cooked, stuffed or otherwise, this is one heavy bird! And if you didn't appreciate it before, you certainly will when you're holding it out in front of you with arms outstretched as you attempt to heave it in or out of the oven. There's a reason chiropractors around the world issue special instructions such as these during the festive season on how to correctly lift turkeys – probably because most of them close down over Christmas, just when we need them the most.
Fried turkey terror
Be thankful that you don't live in the United States. For many reasons, but for the point of this article, be thankful that we've yet to embrace their predilection for deep-frying turkeys. This dangerous habit, especially when attempted with a turkey that hasn't been properly thawed, has led to turkey explosions, turkey fire bombs, house fires and worse. This rather terrifying Reddit post recounts in graphic detail just what can go wrong when a frozen turkey encounters a bubbling inferno of hot oil – and trust us, it ain't pretty. Or go to this YouTube compilation of hapless Americans wreaking havoc with a turkey deep-fryer – it's enough to make you understand how Trump was voted president.
Even when you take care with your deep-fryer, you can still come a cropper – just ask this poor fellow, Serafino Alfe of southern Chicago, who was deep-frying turkeys for a fundraiser, tripped and FELL INTO THE DEEP FRYER. Our backyard barbies have never looked so safe.
Run-of-the-mill turkey burn
Deep-frying aside, mixing a large heavy bird with a roasting pan bubbling with oil, a host who's invariably stressed and has probably already started imbibing Christmas cheer in the form of an alcoholic beverage or three, and a kitchenful of other "helpers", it stands to reason that an oven or oil turkey burn is almost a fait accompli, as this Instagrammer discovered.
And let's not even talk about boiling pots of water on the stovetop and the aforementioned kitchen full of inebriated chefs. Too many cooks … you know the rest.
Turkey and ham aren't the only things that get carved up on Christmas Day, with sections of fingers both large and small also frequently getting dissected. Far be it for us to suggest it has anything to do with "drunk dicing" – we'll put it down to the sheer volume of meat, vegies, cakes and puddings requiring slicing on the day. Either way, a comprehensive list of Christmas food shopping requirements should also include plenty of band-aids, bandages and gauze, and perhaps a plastic bag and a ready stash of ice cubes, just in case.
Repetitive strain injury (RSI)
You think we're stretching now, don't you? Well no, Christmas RSI is a thing. After all, it's not every day of the year you're peeling enough potatoes, pumpkins, carrots and veg to feed a small army, whisking the bearnaise sauce or brandy butter, whipping the cream, (carefully) slicing the turkey, in between repeated liftings of wine glass to mouth. This on top of a hand already weakened from writing Christmas cards, untangling Christmas lights, wrapping presents and driving round in circles in the shopping mall carpark looking for a car space… and again, this is the time of year when all the physios close down?!
Technically more a Christmas eating affliction than a Christmas cooking one, food poisoning can nonetheless be caused by incorrect cooking methods and hygiene, such as washing your turkey, which can spread pathogens such as salmonella around your kitchen (best to pat it dry with paper towel), as well as cross-contamination from knives, cutting boards and hands. But let's be honest, most gastro happens when we've left our leftovers out too long in the balmy summer heat, because our fridges are overloaded with alcohol and other foodstuffs, or we've decided the "three-day rule" can't possibly apply to Christmas leftovers. (Handy tip: it does.) And if there's leftover salmon, fish or seafood that's been left out for any length of time, just fuggedaboudit altogether. This is not the way to lose those unwanted Christmas kilos.
Shellfish and fish cuts
Those of us who spend the rest of the year only dealing with neat little pre-prepared fish fillets and are suddenly faced with wrangling a king-sized whole fish at Christmas may not be the most adept at handling fish. But even the most infrequent fish-handler is not immune to contracting "fish-handler's disease", which occurs when cuts or scrapes in the skin from handling and preparing fish and shellfish become infected with bacteria. If your Christmas-fish-induced nicks are still hanging around well into the New Year, make it a resolution to get checked out by a doctor.