AIDA AUSTIN: “Shut up about your pudding with a whole orange, Heston”

LAST WEEK, in a fascinating experiment, a psychologist assembled 59 volunteers — all of them mothers — in a room. He settled each into an armchair with a Santa hat, mince pie and four glasses of sherry, for which, he noted afterwards, they seemed inordinately grateful.

Reassured of their comfort, he then took them one by one into a quiet side room, and asked each mother to answer 10 questions about Christmas.

In a recent interview with the world-renowned Institute of Surveys That Tell You What You Already Know Already, the psychologist has since said: “While I fulfilled my aim of discovering what mothers honestly feel about Christmas, I remain deeply, deeply disturbed by both the experience and the results.

“Three mothers had to be forcibly removed from the room, and thus were unable to participate. One — wearing a floral apron covered in flour — was unable to stop making repetitive movements that were identified by a psychiatrist as, ‘the pushing of imaginary ingredients through a sieve’. Another started punching her own head when she saw the mince pies, and had to be sedated. A third fell asleep after the first sherry and could not be roused.”

Below are the psychologist’s questions and mothers’ responses. For the purposes of this column, the responses have been paraphrased.

Question 1: Are your nerves in good shape right now?

Answer: No [twitch]. Funny you should ask [twitch] because between you and me, my nerves seem to be troubling me exactly the way they did my grandmother, and she went on Lithium one Christmas, and never came off it [twitch].

Question 2: When did you last experience anger?

Answer: Yesterday, when my husband told me to “chillax” from behind the sports pages, while I was hand-beating a Christmas cake for his mother with a fork.

Question 3: What do you think about TV chef Heston Blumenthal?

Answer [with sudden fist-pound]: Shut up about your Christmas pudding with a whole orange in it, Heston.

Question 4: What do you think of “last-minute Christmas tips”, such as were given by a celebrity chef recently, in a national newspaper?

Answer [screamed]: Enough with the last-minute tips. A recipe for mince pie and armagnac ice cream, is not [hair-pull] a last-minute tip. “Turn the turkey, breast-side down after cooking so the juices run through it,” is a tip. Mince-pie and armagnac ice-cream is A PUDDING.

Question 5: What do you think of homemade gifts?

Answer: Can I have another sherry?

Question 6: Will you be making any?

Answer [with offensive hand-gesture]: Do I look like Kirsty Allsop?

Question 7: What do you think of Pippa Middleton’s statement: “The most important thing to remember for a stress-free festive period, is first impressions.”

Answer: [blank stare]: What’s the point of first impressions when I only need to impress my children, who’d take a packet of Oreos over Heston’s Christmas pudding with a whole orange in it any day?

Question 8: Will you be making a gingerbread house this Christmas?

Answer [with hysterical laughter]: The simplest recipe lists 48 ingredients, and 66 instructions, such as, “pick out the most intact flaked almonds and gently poke them into the roof sections, pointy-end first, to look like roof tiles”. For the love of god, give us another sherry.

Question 9: What are your feelings about TV chef Nigella?

Answer [with weary sigh]: Nigella, you’ve taken coquetry to a WHOLE OTHER LEVEL. Relax now. And in case you think you haven’t so conflated cooking with sex that even words like “liquidiser” and “spoon” sound dirty to me now (never mind “sausage”, or “squeeze”), YOU HAVE. You can stop now [shoulder-slump]. To help, try saying “a sausage is just a sausage,” 100 times. I’ve bloody had to.

Question 10: What do you think of Rachel Allen’s recipes?

Answer [pause]: Is that the one who pronounces couscous, “coos-coos,” instead of “cus-cus?”


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