Christmas dinner is the most ambitious roast of the year. Occupying a unique space between total maximalism (it’s Christmas) and diligently observed tradition (British people hate enjoying themselves), there is much debate over exactly which foods belong on the plate. Do you stick with the classic turkey/sprouts/roasties combo, or go more left-field with a mushroom Wellington? And what about Yorkshire puddings? Also: Bread sauce, please discuss.
People have very different views about Christmas dinner so, because I am a scientist, I conducted some thorough research to confirm once and for all the foods that truly make up a Christmas dinner.
I wrote out a Google Doc of all the things I could think of that you can possibly have on a Christmas dinner and then got my colleagues to cast votes for each item. I then very quickly began ignoring those votes, because I noticed that someone had legitimately voted for "chicken" in the meat section.
Anyway, come on then:
The big fella, the main event, the Tony Soprano of the table. Even as a vegan, I can firmly state that the turkey (real or vegetarian alternative!) occupies a Christ-like level of importance. There would be no Christmas without Him.
DOES IT GO ON THE CHRISTMAS DINNER? Unequivocally, yes.
BEEF AND/OR HAM
I come from an Irish family where there’d be an average of one joint of meat on the table per person. So to me, it’s not really Christmas if I don’t feel like I’m being smothered by the aroma of roasted flesh. However when I polled my colleagues, there were only two votes for beef and none for ham. So, what’s the truth????
DOES IT GO ON THE CHRISTMAS DINNER? Non-essential but don’t tell my nan I said that.
PIGS IN BLANKETS
Kind of like the Sharon Corr to the Andrea Corr of the turkey on a Christmas dinner, the P-in-Bs provide vital support by harmonising with the star. I will say, however, that the bastardisation of the pig-in-blanket form over the last few years (you can now get two metre-long P-in-Bs ffs) is a real step back for the P-in-B. Its classic form should be respected.
DOES IT GO ON THE CHRISTMAS DINNER? Yeah, if you’re a meat-eater. Take it from me, the vegan ones are dogshit.
Not sure if you’re aware, but veganism is a thing. It's important, therefore, to also consider the vegetarian mains that can find their way onto the roast – usually to placate the one little shit in the family who watched a documentary about climate change and renounced cheese. Before veganism went mainstream, the choice was limited to: nut roast. Otherwise known as a loaf of nuts. Vegans would sadly choke it down, pouncing on every possible spare roast potato for comfort, resenting everyone. An apt Christmas food, but rarely an enjoyable one.
DOES IT GO ON THE CHRISTMAS DINNER? Not if you don’t hate yourself.
If Christmas dinner is about indulgence to the point of giving yourself a bathroom problem, then this privilege should not be reserved for meat eaters. Present me with the thing they call "Tofurky" and let me make my own destiny.
DOES IT GO ON THE CHRISTMAS DINNER? Regrettably for stomachs everywhere, yes.
Since this one is a no-brainer, I just want to take a second to remind you of how good – how crispy, then how fluffy, all that delicious oil coating the inside of your mouth – that first bite of roast p is. God’s own potato.
DOES IT GO ON THE CHRISTMAS DINNER? As long as there is breath in my body, and for the eternity after that too.
Here is where we come to the first real contention of the list (unless you’re a nut roast ultra in which case, don’t you have a jigsaw to be doing or something?) Mashed potato on Christmas dinner is a hotly contested concept, but as I see it, mash is simply another indulgence on the most indulgent meal of the year (if you don’t think mash is class then you’re not putting enough butter in.) Therefore, the sides of the argument can be vaguely sketched as such:
Only roasts: Wee guys, southerners
Roasts and mash: Henry VIII-esque lords, top shaggers
DOES IT GO ON THE CHRISTMAS DINNER? Yes but only for legends who can fucking well handle it.
Vegetables are the underdogs of Christmas dinner, usually because they aren't cooked correctly. Which brings me to sprouts, a veritable king of vegetables, but much maligned because most people only boil them, which is a heartbreaking waste. Chop your sprouts in half, fry them in olive oil, salt, pepper, and maybe a little bit of garlic (add bacon – real or vegan – if ya nasty) and cook til they’re browned, and then tell me they do not belong.
DOES IT GO ON THE CHRISTMAS DINNER? Absolutely.
Parsnips are that person who your mates are mates with and are always talking about as if they’re so fun and interesting and kind – ”Oh man, I love parsnips so much. Parsnips does such a funny impression of Pam from Gavin and Stacey. Do you know what Parsnips got me for Christmas? A Gucci bag. I like the novelty hair slides you got me too though!!” – but who you just really can’t get on board with. So you just pretend to like them even though you actually think they’re a bit of a disingenuous prick that doesn’t even go that nicely on the dinner and quite frankly isn’t that enjoyable texturally.
DOES IT GO ON THE CHRISTMAS DINNER? Begrudgingly, yes.
As much as a Christmas dinner is generally an exercise in chucking everything in the house at a plate, some lines do have to be drawn. One of those lines, unfortunately, is peas. It’s hard to explain why this is, because on a normal roast it’s not unusual to see a pea. But having peas on a Christmas dinner is just sort of… wrong, like calling your mum by her first name.
DOES IT GO ON THE CHRISTMAS DINNER? No.
Carrots are fundamentally unsatisfying, and yet they must be on the Christmas dinner, because it’s the rules. Their presence is the Christmas food equivalent of going on a Tinder date you agreed to a while ago, despite knowing you wouldn’t fancy the person, like, at all.
DOES IT GO ON THE CHRISTMAS DINNER? *Sigh* I suppose it might be alright when I’ve had a drink.
Whether red or green, cabbage is an earthy delight, and other than sprouts, it is the only vegetable to have actually earned its place on the dinner by tasting nice, rather than getting it via some sort of inherited wisdom, as if Christmas dinner is the House of Lords or something.
DOES IT GO ON THE CHRISTMAS DINNER?: Yes!
I respect cauliflower cheese because it is a dish that takes the question, “How do I make something extremely plain and boring into an artery-clogging mess?” and honestly just fucking runs off with it. In that way, it’s deeply in the spirit of Christmas dinner. I’m worried it might be a bit too deranged though.
DOES IT GO ON THE CHRISTMAS DINNER? If you have a can as soon as you wake up on Christmas Day then it’s allowed.
DOES IT GO ON THE CHRISTMAS DINNER? No.
No need to even get into this one.
DOES IT GO ON THE CHRISTMAS DINNER? Duh.
I have to admit I don’t know what bread sauce is but “a creamy sauce made of milk and thickened with breadcrumbs” sounds like baby food so I’m saying no.
DOES IT GO ON THE CHRISTMAS DINNER? If you are a baby.
Not for me personally, but I can see how the sweetness cuts through what is otherwise a fairly savoury dining situation.
DOES IT GO ON THE CHRISTMAS DINNER? Sure.
Yes because it’s good on the sandwiches the next day.
DOES IT GO ON THE CHRISTMAS DINNER? S A N D W I C H E S.
I left this one until the end because it is famously divisive. From what I can gather, people crow about how Yorkshire puddings are only meant to go alongside roast beef, and therefore enjoy depriving themselves of the most objectively delicious thing you can have on any roast dinner. Now as we’ve seen, there are some elements of the Christmas dinner that are purely about tradition. But quite honestly, the seductiveness of the Yorkshire pudding – crisp, soft, then oily – is too much to resist. The resolution to the Yorkshire pudding debate is simply thus: give yourself over to absolute pleasure.
DOES IT GO ON THE CHRISTMAS DINNER? Yeah stop being a fucking masochist, it’s Christmas.
THE DEFINITIVE LIST OF EVERYTHING THAT GOES ON A CHRISTMAS DINNER
The essentials are: turkey or fake meat alternative, pigs-in-blankets, roast potatoes, sprouts, parsnips, carrots, cabbage, gravy, stuffing, Yorky p. Add mash, cranberry sauce, cauliflower cheese, and another meat if you’re a madhead. *Bangs gavel*