25th December 2021, approximately 08:30
“It doesn’t matter; at least we’ve learned something,” Jordan consoles me, smiling, unwavered.
“All we’ve learned is that we can’t make hollandaise sauce,” I mutter, feeling helpless at the sight of two empty gold foil wrappers and countless egg shells that have amounted to absolutely nothing; one jug, one bowl and one pan of failed hollandaise sauce, growing colder by the second, scattered across the kitchen. Stark reminders that we must stick with what we know next year.
“It’s Christmas,” Jordan reminds me.
For I think my whole life we have started the festivities with a fry up and since 2016 or 2017, my brother & I have been in charge of the first meal of Christmas Day. It’s a role I take very seriously, with a particularly acute focus on my signature cheesy scrambled eggs. It was only a few weeks ago that I questioned our tradition: Are we even that many meals away from being Dawn French in the Vicar of Dibley Christmas Lunch episode!?
We agreed a full English on Christmas Day, only a few hours before our Christmas lunch, does seem a little excessive. I posed the question: Shall we try something new?
There were gasps. My mum had to sit down to gather her thoughts.
What felt like minutes passed.
“I like eggs Benedict with salmon,” my dad finally offered.
“I know how to make hollandaise sauce,” my brother celebrated.
“Something different can’t hurt,” my mum agreed.
I suppose we all had a part to play in how the morning of Christmas Day unravelled.
25th December 2019, I guess around 08:00
“Get the pan hot but make sure you turn it down before you add the eggs,” I order, a coating of stress moistening my forehead. The timings are okay, if a little tight, but we’ve yet to set the table, make a pot of tea or warmed up the grill. “And don’t forget to season them.” I slide over the salt and pepper.
“Yes boss”, my brother jokes, although visibly nervous to make one wrong move.
I laugh uneasily, making a conscious effort to pretend I’m relaxed. “Why don’t you go and set the table?” I try to say kindly but my brother has been through this song & dance before and promptly scurries off, glad to be momentarily dismissed.
I take over whisking the eggs.
25th December 2021, 08:05
“It looks great,” I say giddily as I pour in a final splash of melted butter and Jordan continues to whisk. Our second attempt at the hollandaise is forming perfectly in front of our eyes, thanks to a Jamie Oliver YouTube tutorial.
The first attempt is tossed to one side, a ghost of Christmas past (too many eggs, cooked with too much heat and whisked too slowly).
Now, silky, almost Ambrosia-custard-yellow sauce glistens back at us in the bowl and I grin at my brother, my heartrate beginning to slow. Jamie has saved Christmas.
We (I) militantly fall back into action: slice the bagels, chop the chives and poach the eggs.
“Uh, Kath,” Jordan grimaces a perfect ‘:/’ emoji. I follow his gaze, my hopeful mood making me certain there’s nothing we can’t fix. “I don’t think we should have left it on the hot plate.”
I finally see it. Hollandaise no more, there sits instead, a sad version of scrambled eggs.
I’m not a great cook; I’m an average cook. I like making one-pan or chuck-it-all-in-a-roasting-tin dinners. I can make a decent spaghetti bolognese, a good chilli and a mean omelette. If I were to own an all you can eat buffet-style restaurant, the spread would be questionable, but you’d have a decent time. Maybe I’d average a 2.5 on Tripadvisor – a 3 if you come with low hopes and you BYOB.
But one thing
I’m my brother and I, as a team, are supposed to get right, year after year, is Christmas Day breakfast.
25th December 2021, 08:35
“I love mine,” my mum reassures, walking on eggshells and hopefully not eating eggshells.
I stare at my plate, deliberately having piled the darkest bagel, the scrimpiest portion of smoked salmon and the saddest poached egg onto my plate as punishment. Three botched attempts at hollandaise sauce left us all fighting for the cream cheese to liven things up.
“Cheers,” someone slices through the atmosphere as three glasses of Buck’s Fizz are raised and encouraging smiles are given.
My family wait a moment; my brother laughs nervously. I lift my glass in agreement, “Cheers.”