Perfect Christmas secrets with Beverley Glock, Steve Sidhu and Andrew Jenner
PUBLISHED: 13:01 20 December 2013 | UPDATED: 13:02 20 December 2013
Stick to a plan, give everyone a role, avoid all night karaoke, nip to the pub, pace yourself… and remember it’s just one day you’re supposed to enjoy!
Beverley Glock - Food writer and broadcaster
When Beverley Glock starts to suggest Boxing Day presents are a good idea, you wonder if she’s had a bit too much Christmas spirit already. Haven’t we got enough to cope with?
But then it all makes sense: “It started with my Dad. Most years he would forget to buy presents, hide them goodness knows where, or appear with something he’d grabbed from the shops on Boxing Day.
“We still do it now, but we are not talking about anything lavish. Think of things that people need but you might not normally wrap up as a Christmas gift. Best of all is something funny. Last year I presented everyone in the family with onesies!”
Now once you imagine the scene of the whole Glock family, Beverley, husband Pete and their three children, parading around in their onesies pointing at each other, you can picture the resulting hilarity. It could well be something to try for your gathering but, for now, we turn back to Christmas Eve and The Big Day, and Beverley has a precise recipe for success.
We’re not talking ingredients here, but a behind the scenes ‘military operation’ of subterfuge combined with timing and order that would make the SAS proud.
“Get the kids involved from the beginning,” she says. “Don’t be the martyr trapped alone in the kitchen who misses out on all the fun. On Christmas Eve we all go to the crib service at the church, and neighbours and friends come to us for minced pies and champagne from 6 to 8pm. And they know that’s it – it finishes at 8pm, time to go home. Then we have family time for the rest of the evening.”
On Christmas Day morning the stockings are opened, followed by Bucks Fizz with breakfast as Beverley’s ‘Stop – Start – Enjoy’ style routine comes into play. So everyone’s involved in peeling potatoes and veg, getting that turkey in the oven and leaving the kitchen neat.
“All of this happens before the present opening. The whole family should be there for that.” Beverley hates the idea of one frazzled person (usually the mother) stuck in the kitchen as wrapping paper is ripped off in another room to squeals of delight. “It’s simply not on. Everyone can help out in some way to make the Christmas, even the person whose task is to pop into the kitchen every so often with a filled glass for the person overseeing the cooking!”
Beyond the extra presents, Boxing Day has something of a set theme, too. “Make a rule that there’s no TV and do something together. In our house it’s Lego as we are all big fans. Then in the evening we head out to a pantomime.”
The theme here is to embed a tradition that suits your family – and it still works as younger members grow up. Beverley explains: “Before the children arrived Pete and I used to go skiing at Christmas. Now we have teenagers I suggested this year we might all do that, but goodness, we almost had tears over the idea that we weren’t going to do our Proper Family Christmas.”
Steve Sidhu - 10 Mile Menu
Our Food Hero of 2013 loves the festive celebrations, but this year will be the first when he will be delivering orders including the best local turkeys into the late hours of Christmas Eve.
“So my Christmas Day might be a little quieter and restful than usual – which is not necessarily a bad thing,” he says. And why is this? “My first tip is for the chaps. Think twice before saying yes to the mother-in-law when she offers you a glass of champagne at 9am on Christmas morning.
“It was my introduction to a Glaswegian Christmas and followed all night karaoke until 5am. Dinner was due on the table at 3pm, I suspect it was 9pm when it arrived and no one remembers what it tasted like,” he reveals.
So Steve says that if things are in danger of getting a bit raucous it would be a good idea if someone willing to go steady on the tipple was put in charge.
More seriously, he points out that for many families the Christmas Day meal is the focal point of the gathering. “After all the present opening and whatever comes after it, guests judge a successful Christmas by the meal – it’s what they remember and talk about.
“People can put a lot of critical effort into choosing gifts – as a foodie I’d say give the same level of effort to sourcing quality ingredients for what is, after all, the meal of the year. It starts with the turkey – even if you accidentally overcook it the flavour of a high quality turkey is still there to enjoy. Add fresh local vegetables and you won’t go far wrong.
“Finally, prepare as much in advance as possible so that the person doing the cooking is not a worn out slave. The best reason I can think of for getting a lot done on Christmas Eve is that the next morning you could walk to the local pub for ‘a loosener’. Hmmm… I seem to be getting back to drink again!”
Andrew Jenner - Mayor of the Royal Borough
When a man who’s fed his then toddlers Christmas lunch in the heat of an Australian summer with fans on the highest setting advises you to ‘Chill out’, it’s probably time to listen.
“My message to those already in a panic over Christmas is to pace yourself. We are talking one day here. But it’s a whole day and I can’t see the point in rushing to get a huge meal on the table at 1pm and then everyone falls asleep to wake up groggy in the evening. That seems a terrible way to waste the day after a big build-up.
“Get the family involved, take the dog for a walk and really enjoy Christmas dinner at about 7pm when everyone has an appetite – that makes more sense to me,” he says.
It will work perfectly with the day the Jenners have planned this year. For a start, as Mayor and Mayoress, Andrew and wife Julie will be visiting some homes for senior citizens, and making their own way there as he’s given the official driver the day off.
“We’ll just be popping in to say ‘Merry Christmas’ as people will have their own things planned, they won’t want us there for ages!” he laughs.
So that’s a guide for the rest of us – neighbours will appreciate a quick and cheery seasonal visit – but don’t overstay your welcome.
“Make it a family time. For some it’s a time of religious reflection, for others a chance to spend a few hours really talking and relaxing with the family. But take it easy – there’s no need for it to turn into a day where you’re just glad when it’s over. Enjoy the food and drink, but don’t over-indulge.”
There’s another way in which the Jenner family Christmas will differ from many of ours – they are well aware that their café by the Thames at Maidenhead re-opens on Boxing Day to cater for those of us enjoying a stroll in the fresh air.
But just in case you suspect the Jenners just glide through a perfect Christmas, Andrew reveals that it doesn’t always go to plan, and sometimes you just have to make the best of it. “One year we left everything for our dinner out and ready in the café to collect on Christmas Day, and didn’t realise the electricity had gone until we went to get it. It wasn’t safe to eat so we ended up rushing round the shops that were open looking for bits of chicken. You have to laugh at things like that!”
Don’t forget the pets
Our four-legged friends can only cope with so much excitement. Remember that chocolate made for human consumption can poison cats and dogs, and they shouldn’t be given Christmas pudding, mince pies or cake as grapes and raisins can damage their kidneys.
Turkey bones should be kept away from dogs as they present a choking hazard. Don’t let them drink water that Christmas trees have stood in (it may contain fertilisers) and kittens and puppies have a habit of eating ribbon and tinsel, so keep them away from it.