Christmas food and drink: Can't cook, won't cook
2:30pm Monday 23rd November 2009 in Food and Drink
THERE's no meal in the year that comes with as many expectations as Christmas dinner. And if you're a rotten or reluctant cook, a roomful of guests and a turkey with all the trimmings can add up to a nightmare.
In fact, many people go to elaborate lengths to avoid ever having to cook Christmas dinner. The meal has to live up to a lot of traditions both family and national - and then there's the tricky business of getting it all ready on time.
There's even a chance that a bad cook could poison the guests, if the turkey isn't properly thawed out and cooked through.
Goodness - perhaps it's a good idea to head off and hide somewhere. Africa, maybe...
Yet even the worst cook in the world is in with a good chance these days, however, thanks to the enormous surge inpopularity of ready-made meals.
At one time, any hostess getting ready for a dinner party would blush for shame to think that she had bought her meal from a supermarket.
But as lives - and particularly women's lives - have become busier, the ready-made dinner party has become not only acceptable, but even trendy.
It's not hard to see why. Stores like Marks & Spencer, always a trend-setter, provide far more than the basics when it comes to food that is already prepared.
This can range from ready-washed and chopped vegetables to packs that are ready-herbed and sauced and simply need popping in the oven or microwave.
All you need to do is take note of the cooking times and work out when to put them in - write a list if you have a lot of dishes or a large number of guests.
It's true that a ready-made Christmas dinner is likely to cost you a lot more than one you have prepared yourself, but you will save a lot of time and stress.
If going the whole hog and buying in your dinner seems like a cheat, compromise - cook your own turkey but buy in luxurious ready-made vegetables. Or perhaps you could make something suprising, such as the cranberry jelly, yourself.
As it's something you can prepare in advance, you'll have plenty of time to get it right, and you can boast about it on the day.
Remember, too, that most people already buy in their Christmas pudding ready-made - hardly suprrising when you consider that a good pudding should really be made in the early Autumn and left to mature for months.
So should you deceive your guests? That's down to your conscience - and do make sure to hide the packaging well!