Christmas with Elisabeth Luard: ‘Preparations rarely went to plan’ | Christmas memories

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From rabbit paella in Andalucia to partridge in Provence, food writer Elisabeth Luard has always taken a ‘when in Rome’ approach to Christmas. This year, her first without culinary responsibility, is no exception

Forget the turkey with all the trimmings and go with the flow at Christmas, wherever you may be. I learned my own lesson in childhood on the diplomatic circuit in Latin America. I was just seven years old when my stepfather was posted to the embassy in Montevideo, Uruguay, where the seasons were upside down and my family celebrated the midwinter festival in high summer.

Preparations rarely went to plan. The pudding ordered from Harrods via the diplomatic bag would arrive shortly after the new year, and my mother’s cook, a native of the high Andes, had her own ideas of what to do with a scrawny old bird (boil until tender and sauce with chilli). She had to be taught how to prepare bread sauce, Bisto gravy, tinned Wall’s sausages and brussels sprouts heated up from the can. A pointless undertaking – in her view and mine – not least because when I refused to eat the stuff, I was sent supperless to bed. Which happened to be the desired result, since I headed back down to the kitchen for sympathetic hugs and a can of condensed milk and a spoon.

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