In Dickensian England, goose was the bird of choice for the big feast. When I was growing up in the East End, most families served turkey at Christmas or, in small families like ours, a capon, which is a fat and juicy, knackerless chicken. Since Christmas comes so soon after Thanksgiving, and perhaps because I am so far away from the Green and Pleasant, my American Christmas dinners are invariably roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, based on the traditional Sunday lunch.
For the uninitiated, a Yorkshire pudding is like a popover, only better. Sometimes made with beef drippings in a large tin, I prefer a pan with small indentations that proffer individual servings. This way everyone gets a pudding that resembles a golden, crusty well just waiting for lashings of rich gravy.
Mum was not always a bad cook, but she was always a surprising one. Sometimes her puddings would rise like golden mountain peaks, other times they would sit there, in a pool of meat fat, looking and tasting like a rubber bathmat. There was never any way of knowing in advance. Although inured to Mum’s culinary failures, we could still be buoyed up her erratic successes.
When it is done right, as it will be tomorrow, nothing can beat this classic Sunday lunch of a rib of beef, pink-to-rare on the inside, crusty on the outside, with a freshly made Yorkshire pud, crispy vegetables, as well as meltingly roasted potatoes and parsnips, and a little horseradish cream on the side. This feast is a thing sublime, with the looks, aromas, and flavors of Thanksgiving and Christmas all rolled into one.
Merry Christmas. Eat and drink hearty!