The old radio in the corner is constantly on at Christmas – it’s my loyal companion as I stand, stir & chop; slowly pottering round the kitchen, preparing the dinner. One by one, the joyous chorus of carols builds to a crescendo, and I lift my voice in cheery accompaniment to familiar favourites, old and new.
Behind this seeming harmony; the wireless and I have a grudging respect for each-other. Whenever I get too close, it lets out a wild crackle of protest, which grumblingly fades away as I hastily withdraw back to the table. The radio-set is like a much loved, but cantankerous old relative. The casing is timeworn, and the aerial long gone (it was replaced years ago by a bent and wobbly old coathanger). Since then, the tuning has never really worked properly and only four stations play-out reliably.
Despite the old radio’s protests, I could never get rid of it. It’s worked too long & too hard to simply abandon it the moment a little TLC is required. It simply needs patience and understanding. And besides; the rich music it emits would never quite sound the same from anything else. We’re used to each-other now, the radio and I. It’s a relationship that works, albeit haltingly at times…
But as I chop, stir and pare, I’m aware of other sounds which surround me. From all around comes the bustling hubbub of cookery at work – a rich kitchen carol that’s as joyous and full as the ringing chords of the radio itself.
Hark the herald angels sing… The kettle pipes up and joins in the chorus. It too sings along with its bright cheery whistle. Its voice soars high in descant to tell me the water’s boiled for teapot and stockpot. As I gently lift it from the hob, its song slowly fades as the carol’s last chords reverberate round the kitchen, then echo & die away.
The holly bears a berry, as red as any blood… Bright red cranberries pop and fizz in their gleaming copper-pan, slowly simmering on the hob. I reach into the large wicker vegetable-basket which lives under the table. Dry, papery onion-skins rustle like leaves as I rummage around, searching for ginger, thyme and sage. As I shred and slice cabbage, it crunches like footprints in fresh, pure white snow. The leg of lamb roasting in the oven spits and splutters; mushrooms squeak in the pan and bacon sizzles as it fries in hot butter.
When the glass of red-wine hits the hot pan; a huge steamy sigh billows up to the heavens. We’re walking in the air… Each ingredient has its own special song. They all converge in unison; a fine, diverse choir of mysterious voices, high and low.
But it’s not just the ingredients which sing along to the Christmas chorus. Other sounds in the background join & accompany my soft hum. As iron hits hotplate, it creaks, gasps & groans; cold metal expanding with sharp instant heat.
The copper saucepans on the hob bubble and chatter excitedly; each one anxious to get their own voice heard above the crowd, like schoolboys. Their bright copper lids clatter in clouds of steam, and water hisses as it boils over onto the stovetop. From a distance, they seem to gossip, huddled together in a simmering gaggle of whispers and pranks.
As I peel, grate and dice, my knife hits the board in rhythmic time to the music. The nutcracker cracks to the Sleighride song’s whip; pestle and mortar grind and scrape like a sledge over ice. With each strike of my whisk, the copper bowl rings out like a chime. Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle All The Way blares the radio… Rolling-pins rumble and wine-bottles crunch into crushed ice. In the bleak midwinter… carols the choir.
I close my eyes and listen to the sounds of this kitchen carol. Its unique, discordant chorus is music to my ears.
In this beloved, warm & familiar place; I smile and am happy. For it is home.
Thanks for reading and enjoy the run-up to Christmas,