Christmas and the holiday season is definitely one of my favorite times of the year. Everything is glowing, decorated in red and green, the family comes together to celebrate. That is of course, if you live in a western country. Here in Japan, Christmas is just like any other day of the year. Since not celebrating at all was definitely not an option, I had to take matters in my own hand. So along with the five French people that live with me in this guesthouse, we tried our best to recreate some of the holiday magic we all know and love.
A big part, if not the biggest part, of the holidays is the food obviously. We decided to do two meals like I do it at home. A cheese-fondue on the 24. and then a big meal the day after. This presented a lot of challenges but that was part of the fun of it.
For the fondue, all the cheese we had was the pre-cut, packaged cheese that we somehow had to make work. Without the special pot and the stove that you normally use, we took the pot of the rice-cooker and put it inside of another pot filled with water. We then placed it on a gas-powered portable stove and then made the mixture of cheese and wine, heated it up in the kitchen and filled it into our makeshift fondue pot.
Now since the cheese wasn’t the right one for the fondue, it didn’t perfectly melt and make a homogenous mixture. But cheese is still cheese so the taste was still good and very comparable to the original. 7/10 for cheese fondue.
The Big Dinner
For the big dinner on the 25. we miraculously found a single turkey after looking for one in 3 separate supermarkets. Since that alone would firstly not be much of a meal and secondly impossibly feed 12 people, we created a menu around it.
I was going to be responsible for the soup, the turkey, the red cabbage and the Thüringer Klöse, a sort of potato dumpling from Germany.
I made the soup the day before by basically cutting up and throwing together all the vegetables I could find at the store. That included carrots, sweet potatoes, celery and a few roots that I still don’t exactly know what they are. After cooking them for a really long time came one of the biggest challenges of our DIY Christmas. We didn’t have a mixer and had to somehow get the soup puréed. We bought a cheap potato masher and after that failed just tried mixing it until it was small enough. Eventually we got it to a fairly decent consistency by pressing it through numerous sieves. During the process, we lost about half of the soup so I added some cream. After adding a few drops of vinegar and some parsley, The taste was actually pretty good.
6/10 for great taste but bad consistency, color and presentation.
The main course
For the main I wanted to do something traditional. Luckily we found a turkey so now it was just a matter of baking the thing.. 80 degrees for 4 hours, should be easy right? Ha! Wrong. The oven that’s in this kitchen is powered by gas and you have to operate it with 4 valves and light it inside of the oven with a lighter. There is no glass to see the inside and also no thermometer of any kind.
Another DIY Christmas challenge came along when we were told that there would be some guests joining us for the dinner, bringing the total amount of people up to 12. So we had to somehow stuff the turkey. The only Japanese tradition around Christmas is to go to KFC for some fried chicken. The supermarkets also have some fried chicken around this time so we bought some of that and I made a stuffing for the turkey with it, some bread and some apples. I sort of stiched the turkey together with some bamboo skewers so that it hopefully would hold its shape, covered the turkey in more meat and then I put it in the oven.
Partly through the cook, I removed the meat on top so that the skin could crispen up. I took it out of the oven about half an hour before serving it, and it looked pretty good.
Then came the task of cutting it up. Without any sharp knives and no knowledge and experience of cutting a turkey, the result was actually quite good. All in all I would have to say that for basically improvising everything, I’m quite proud of what I was able to achieve
For the sides I made some red cabbage, and attempted to make Thüringer Klöse without the special machine that you would normally need. It involves grating up lots of potatoes, then trying to get most of the moisture out of them and finally combining them with scorching hot mashed potatoes really quickly. They were fine, but there is lots and lots of room for improvement.
9/10 for the turkey and 4/10 for the sides
DIY Christmas – conclusion
In the end there was enough food for everyone, which is the most important thing. The appetizer and the dessert were also quite good.
We had a lot of fun making and eating the food. And having to improvise on everything may not lead to an ideal result, but it was definitely a fun challenge.