The Americans tend not to eat turkey on Christmas Day itself, as they’ve already had the whole shooting match at Thanksgiving. As well as roasted turkey, the dinner can include cranberry sauce, candied yams, corn-on-the cob, peas, carrots, and pumpkin pie.
It didn’t go as planned: jetlagged (my luggage whisked away by Security at Ontario airport), suffering from the delayed shock of a car crash on the San Diego Freeway (some sort of a moustachioed creature in black leathers and wrap around sun glasses) had rammed my SUV as I attempted to swerve into a Drive-In McDonald’s; the whole operation degenerated into a farce. My girlfriend, fresh from her latest lipo-sculpture ordeal, wasn’t much help either, apart from prodding me awake at four o’clock in the morning to ask me why I hadn’t yet shoved the turkey into the oven.
I had yet to meet her family. Their antennae, understandably pulsating with suspicion, they stuck around the kitchen criticising every move that I made. The turkey was dry, and over-cooked, and I soon discovered that what we call gravy back in Jolly Old, was, in America, a white sauce made from a roux of butter, flour and milk. But I did make some excellent candied yams, and if you’ve the time and inclination, this is how I made them:
Yams are sweet potatoes. You need to scrub them and stick them into a steamer for thirty minutes. You can buy a steamer from any good local kitchen shop, or if you lucky enough to live near a Chinatown, those bamboo steamers are just the ticket. In your favourite pan, melt some unsalted butter, ginger, lemon juice and sugar, until they begin to caramelise. Arrange the yams in a buttered oven-proof serving dish, and pour over the sauce. Bake them for fifteen minutes. Finis. And in case you were wondering: I haven’t seen my American girlfriend since.