The magical ingredient in my Christmas dinner? Memories | Grace Dent

Is the perfect Christmas Day a fantasy? Our restaurant critics meal wouldnt taste the same without some bickering. But she has a dream for the future ...

Christmas dinner, when youre the one cooking it, is an oddly spiritual gesture. Its not just roast meat and spuds on a plate, like any other Sunday. It may look just like it, give or take a blob of cranberry, but Christmas dinner is imbued with memories. Oh, and hopes, dreams, love and loss, too. All the good, emotionally churning stuff that pairs well with a glass of brandy.

When Im shelling sprouts on Christmas Eve, to Keeping The Dream Alive by Freiheit on Radio 2, putting each stubby bullet in a pan of cold water, my mind will wander over at least 10 previous dinners. My fierce Cumberland grandmother, long gone and so very missed, blasting sprouts to mulch in an old-school pressure cooker. The year I and my ex-husband learned that pancetta, cream, pepper and a casserole pot transformed sprouts from also-ran side dish into crowd-pleasing sensation. We actually ran out of sprouts before roast potatoes that year.

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