Connect Hackney

Alone by choice by Harold Werner Rubin

Summer is over and the autumn holiday season is about to begin. As a constant cook I require guests and I have a wide, diverse group of friends who I enjoy dining with.

Experimenting with recipes and varied food stuffs I need a response to my work. Too few people dine at home or will make the effort or do as I will. I am a professional and do not expect others to spend the time and effort I devote to my craft. However, holiday season is a time for friends and families to gather.

Hopefully this will be a pleasure and not an annually repeated and somewhat resented chore. I have enjoyed the best holiday meals with friends, even with strangers who happily chose to get together.

As a first generation American I did not have traditions to follow and to add to my separateness I left the country of my birth more than half my lifetime ago. If you too are a loner, make an effort, seek out some kindred souls and join up. Gather them to yourself or lacking the ability to entertain where you live, then offer to help a charity feed others like yourself. I believe Christmas has lost its message.

Too much commercialism has robbed it of its virtues. I like to leave the tinsel to RuPaul and concentrate on an enjoyable and wholesome feast with people who like each other. No gimmicks, no strange ingredients which require googling to define and avoiding the trad stuff no one truly likes.

The big But to this is almost everyone I invite has other plans, so I enjoy my own company and cook what I like best. Following this, I will make my big dinner on Boxing Day and some of the invitees hopefully will happily arrive. Thanksgiving Day and the Macy’s Parade launch the US Christmas season. This American Holiday falls on a Thursday in late November.

A non-holiday midweek day is a difficult one for a dinner party. So I will move it to the Sunday afternoon. This is a date which my chosen guests can attend. The origins like Christmas are from Pagan rituals, but all that remains is a gathering and feasting.

There is no need for cards and gifts or decoration, just simple pleasure and enjoyable company. The traditional foods are like a rehearsal to Christmas dinner. As an iconoclast, I follow my own recipes. Chickens are boring, turkeys are dry, duck is greasy and geese are costly. The French adore capons and so do I.

The way most chicken and turkey has been modified for the mass market, they have lost most of their flavour. Capons (now chemically neutered) are allowed longer maturing (and fattening) time, about 3 times that of the ordinary chicken. The result is a tastier, fleshier and more satisfying bird. The next decision is the menu to suit any vegan or pescatarian guests among the omnivores. I roast the stuffing in a casserole, not in the capon’s cavity. Bread, onions, herbs, mushrooms, vegetable stock, oil.

Cranberry relish, candied yams, cabbage and carrot slaw (no mayonnaise). All these will suit vegetarian/vegans. May include a steamed fish for any pescatarians. Pecan pie (contains eggs) and topped with cream. Fruit crumble (use oil instead of butter in topping).

This is my run-up to Christmas and I expect to enjoy it. So break with your tradition, move to another day – it’s only a calendar. Do something you will both enjoy and remember. Salad! Send an email for recipes and questions.

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