’Twas the night before the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even the Silver Fox. He’d run his race too early, the night before the night before the night before, and was now lying supine – defenceless as a welfare recipient under the gimlet gaze of Scott Morrison – on the ergonomically mystifying King Furniture rocker.
Outside, the shed fridge was gently humming, an ex-turkey at rest in its frigid embrace, cushioned on layers of paper towel. Not just any turkey, mind – a turkey that had, for its short but idyllic life, been afforded the most caring of care before shuffling off this mortal coil through sheer happiness, thanks to the ministering angels at Feather and Bone.
The mistress of the house, Keeper of the Double-Sided Sticky Tape and Purveyor of Fine Layers of Dust, beamed as she surveyed her bedecked halls. From the east wing to the west, all was in good order. She had completed her gift-wrapping, sustaining only minor injuries, and the gaily beribboned parcels were piled high around the grand, 800mm Flower Power Living Christmas Tree.
She gently ran her finger along the spines of the cookery books and magazines gathered on the kitchen bench, smiling in anticipation at the sifting and stirring, grinding and mixing, whipping and smearing that lay ahead.
But then her thoughts quickly turned back to cooking and the colour drained from her face. It was the night before the night before Christmas and there was peril afoot. The Knights and Dames of the Kitchen Table were a treacherous and divisive rabble, from M’lady Maggie Beer of the Verjuice, with her damnable double oven bags and resting the bird breast-side down for up to one hour, to Monseigneur Gary Rhodes, Lord of Step-By-Step Cooking, and his delving inside to locate the wishbone and cutting it out with a small sharp knife, the better to facilitate carving.
She must act quickly, lest the morrow’s endeavours overwhelm her. Before she knew it, it would be the night before Christmas and the calm she’d worked so steadfastly to achieve over the past 10 days would be lost. She would once again be transformed into My Lady of the Last Minute and surely would not go to the ball.
She would return again to the oracle Stephanie Alexander, whose sagacity in the dark arts of large trussed birds and marshmallowy pavlova was hailed in all four corners of this flat, square earth, even as far as Empress Nigella’s Land of the Midnight Snack. Soothed by this thought, she sprayed her chastity belt with a little more WD40, pinched her ashen cheeks to their former rosiness and took up her smoothing iron once more. She must make haste with her liege’s doublet and hose before he awoke, then check on the nominations for the Queen’s New Year Honours list. Perhaps this time…