Hosting your first Christmas lunch is more than just a meal, it's a rite of passage, an unspoken acknowledgement that you've reached a point in your life where you can be responsible for bringing your family together.
The great thing about Christmas lunch is that you're feeding people you know and love. The chance to serve your whole family in one sitting is a rare privilege, and one not to be missed.
But I'm not denying the degree of difficulty. Trying to create a delicious meal for a crowd, without turning your kitchen into a dystopic wasteland is no mean feat. With that in mind, I pass to you my top five hints for avoiding a Christmas lunch disaster.
1. Plan your menu around your kitchen.
Think about the heat sources in your home and plan your menu accordingly. It's no use putting four oven-baked dishes on the bill if you have only one oven. Use your barbecue, stovetops, portable burners, ovens and microwaves for a complete meal that works in and around your kitchen.
2. Write it down. Stick it down.
Once you have your menu set, write it down as one complete list of steps (mix oyster dressing, juice oranges for turkey glaze, etc.). Once it's written down, take some masking tape and stick the list onto a quiet corner of your kitchen bench, the fridge or a nearby wall. If you don't stick it down, you will lose it when things get hectic.
3. Don't go it alone.
With a lot of family around, you will hopefully be getting a lot of offers of help. Never turn them away. Another great part of having a written list is that you can easily delegate single tasks. Children can help pick herbs, adults can chop vegetables or work a barbecue and, even if there's nothing to cook, having someone just wash whatever dishes are in the sink when they ask will make your day a lot easier.
4. You can make friends with salad.
Despite what you may think, the centerpiece turkey is not what will make or break your Christmas feast. If you just bet on the bird and put less effort into your sides and salads, you'll never make a great impression. Great salads come from great ingredients, and you should really put the effort into getting the best fruits, vegetables and cheeses you can afford.
5. Ultimately, the food is not important.
This is true for every dinner party and doubly so for a Christmas feast. What makes a memorable meal is far less about what we eat or drink than it is about the company we keep. Christmas is a joyous occasion and the chance to spend it with the people we love is a rare blessing. Smile, breathe and enjoy yourself.