There's a couple of lines in Nigella Lawson's latest book Cook Eat Repeat (which I hope you found under your Christmas tree) which espouse the idea of rituals at this time of year. Indeed the very title of this fabulous book might indicate the domestic goddess herself finds some comfort in routines.
It seems we all do.
"But even curtailed Christmas celebrations in my house will, I know, rely on repetition and, what's more, we'll luxuriate in it," she writes.
"We human beings need ritual; for me at Christmas that need is met in cooking and at the table."
But I digress. Lawson goes on to talk about how ritual matters. At Christmas it's about the same jokes, the same arguments, when you put up the tree, the decorations you use, what is served at the table.
We have a few. The tree goes up on my birthday, two weeks before Christmas. We usually fight when it comes to decorating it, but this year we didn't, a harbinger of this new life.
The kids, now 19 and 17, had their photo taken with Santa as they have done since there was only one of them in 2001. We laughed at this socially distanced version and knew we'd look back at it in another 20 years or so and remember 2020 with some kind of fondness.
And then there was the ham. I have wondered for the past few years, now that much of this holiday period is spent on my own, why I still insist on buying a ham big enough to feed a small army.
My butchers know me, and my circumstance, well enough to suggest an appropriate size. Enough to feed the three of us for whatever meal we deem the main one, but big enough to provide leftovers for days.
As we head into January, I hope you have stored all your leftovers with food safety in mind. But at time of writing I am still eating leftover ham. I think it's a sign that you are now an adult if you've bought a ham and a sign of how well you're doing if you're not overwhelmed by what to do with it.
I woke up Boxing Day craving a ham and cheese toastie while I watched the opening overs of the Test match. That in itself is something of a ritual. And the toastie has been on high rotation all week.
But wait there's more. Last year I made Jill Dupleix's spaghetti hamonara and declared it the best version of carbonara I had made with leftover ham. It contains no cream, and that question over carbonara has incited a few arguments this very week. Do you put cream in your carbonara? I did this time because there was a dash leftover in the back of the fridge. Along with the leftover beans and asparagus from the Christmas feast. The panko breadcrumbs separated and crisped up a bit again and sprinkled over the top. Delicious.
So too was the turkey fried rice. I diced up the meat and chopped up whatever leftover vegetables I could find, the chilli roasted carrots and a handful of frozen peas. I zapped a cup of Sunrice brown rice, tossed it all together with a splash of tamari. Another delicious meal done.
Ham and eggs for breakfast, another toastie or two using whatever scraps of cheese I could find, and then fritters.
Fritters are what I make when I need to get my life back in order. My mother used to serve them after she'd made a roast lamb, using up whatever meat and vegetables we did not get to the first time.
The best batter I've found is a recipe from inaugural MasterChef winner Julie Goodwin: two eggs, whisked, a third of a cup of milk, three-quarters of a cup of self-raising flour. I adjust depending on the amount of filling I end up. They reheat well and are the perfect lunch box addition.
It's the time of year where you lose track of what day it is. One Big Bash game bleeds into the next, there are no calendar appointments, or schedules to keep. It's the routine of cooking that sets the clock and recharges the soul.
Proper routine will come around soon enough.
I'm on holidays for a while and have time to enjoy books and television shows so I thought I would share in case you're looking for suggestions.
I'm reading, somewhat fittingly, two almost end of the world books. The Last Migration, by Charlotte McConaghy (Hamish Hamilton, $32.99) is an enchanting if somewhat dark book about Franny Stone who tracks the migration of the last birds in the world. In Ghost Species (Hamish Hamilton, $29.99) James Bradley asks some interesting questions about how we should save the world.
I'm watching, no surprise, Nigella on the series of Cook Eat Repeat available on the ABC's iview where I also stumbled across a delightful little show called Love, Nina. Check it out.