Wednesday 2 December, 2020

Jacqui Tyson’s tips for a downsized Christmas dinner

Award-winning caterer Jacqui Tyson shares the top ten tips for a successful, stress-free Christmas dinner. (Photos: via Instagram)

Award-winning caterer Jacqui Tyson shares the top ten tips for a successful, stress-free Christmas dinner. (Photos: via Instagram)

What will Christmas dinner look like this year? Considering the degrees of separation we’ve experienced since COVID-19, many are uncertain.

Award-winning caterer and household name Jacqui Tyson believes ‘the big splurge’ is out, and ‘tailoring your finances to meet your needs’ is in.

She shared 10 tips to help make this Christmas as special as can be despite the distance.

‘This season is all about toning down and scaling back, focus on the group you’re cooking for,’ she told Loop Lifestyle, ‘and do away with the idea of a big family dinner this Christmas.’

‘Instead of a grand breakfast and extravagant dinner on Christmas Day, do a sumptuous breakfast or a delightful brunch for your household and organise dinner take-out with the relatives.’

For those who opt for the latter, Tyson endorses potluck! ‘Everyone could pitch in, share the responsibilities and focus on the meals they make best.’

For example, Aunt Jean’s ‘shelly’ Gungo rice and peas that’s best served hot out the dutchie, she can focus on perfecting that.

Though she believes families are getting back to the timeless tradition of cooking all night Christmas Eve into Christmas Day, she appreciates the challenge of practising safety protocols in a packed kitchen.

Of course, this idea is perfect for larger kitchens. But, what about the smaller ones? Easy, take the prep work out of the kitchen and into other rooms.

Tyson’s top ten

1 Reduce the cooking; keep it all in the family, no house-hopping this year.

2 Focus on one or two must-do dishes that the entire family usually loves and, if you decide on ham for instance, where you'd typically get a leg ham, select smaller portions such as the ‘shank’ or ‘butt end’.

Another alternative would be to split the cost of, for example, a 20lb whole ham with your relatives and share it evenly.

3 Everyone pitches in. The family’s chief organiser/planner should take lead on this and dictate the tasks; pooling resources is key. This is a great way to share the moment without being together.

4 Accept Facetime, Zoom, or Skype dining as options. ‘Zoom dinners are a big deal now, and this is a great way to include family members abroad.’

5 Make cooking fun again by thinking out of the box, the kids can help with this; put their wild imaginations to good use.

6 Consider gifting food items or creating a gift basket for relatives instead of material things.

‘We’re not getting dolled up to go anywhere anytime soon, so, instead think of all the ingredients a household may need to make, for example, a pot of rice and peas and stuffed chicken.’

7 Celebrate life and the non-tangible things like hope, joy, love, peace, and togetherness.

8 ‘We used to stay up all night on Christmas Eve to cook, I think that’s coming back.’

Go back to basics with the good ol’ Christmas Eve family tradition. One kitchen, multiple personalities, lots of sanitising, keeping your distance.

‘Then we all head home to prepare for a socially distant Zoom dining experience,’ she added. 

9 Look at the entire family’s needs, decide on the necessities, and send gift certificates from supermarkets – ‘Christmas is all about sharing’.

10 Cook together, dine virtually. Set plans for distribution: pick-ups and drop-offs of meals before they’re ready that they may get to everyone in time for the big virtual family dinner.

But there’s more…Brawta for décor!

If you’re a Christmas tete and want to go big, go for it, but if you’d prefer to skip the fuss this year, Tyson champions the ‘less is more’ cliché. 

‘Scaling back transitions seamlessly to décor too,’ she shared. ‘Less is always more!’

‘Keep it light, some pepper light here and there, a DIY or store-bought garland of lights, or a bunch of balloons wrapped with lights – something the kids would enjoy, that would also make a statement.’

Tyson recommends using pepper lights in the LED variety, which makes them much safer for the home.

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