Towering prawnferno and Chardonnay vomit

Written by SJ Covey

Everyone remembers their first time, don’t they? I know I do. My first boyfriend and I had moved into our first house together, and I was cooking Christmas dinner for 8 humans and 3 black labradors.

I bought a Gary Rhodes cookbook and I’m making a posh prawn cocktail for the starter.

Money is not flowing in abundance from the heavens; I have no plans to spend £80 on the 8 moulds I need to create this wonderous stacking tower of prawn perfection. They look like empty food cans, so this is what I use.

The shopping, cooking and prepping take weeks. In advance, I make the towers, red cabbage with bacon and chestnuts.

Christmas morning arrives. I am up at five, putting the giant turkey in the oven. There is no wiggle room for him. The Chardonnay gravy is an absolute disaster, lumpy with the colour and consistency of vomit and tastes how it looks.

Queue the arrival of both of our families. My dog and my brothers two tear around the house, having the time of their lives and tripping people up. Everyone offers me gravy advice and tries to resurrect the vomit. I pour it down the sink, where it belongs.

Gravy granules to the rescue.

Wait until they see the prawns. I think to myself.

Presents are being opened, which makes the dogs even giddier. They bound in and out of the kitchen of our sizeable terraced house. The kitchen is large enough for a table to seat 8, a chest freezer and more cupboards than I can fill.

Today we are eating in the dining room, and I move the sofa bed from the dining room into the kitchen, replacing it with the table and chairs. It is picture-perfect with the Christmas settings and twinkling lights, making up for the gravy.

The time is upon me; In the kitchen, I catch my dog’s sister, one of my brother’s dogs, pressing onto the bin pedal. The lid opens, and Travis, my dog, delves in.

“No,” I shout. “Get on your bed.” Shoeing the pair of rascals away.

I remove the tins from the layers of oven-roasted pepper circles—finely diced iceberg lettuce mixed with small prawns and a made-from-scratch sauce. King prawns sit atop each tower, a crown framing my masterpiece.

“Ohhhh,” rings around the table. My cheeks hurt from smiling.

Every plate is clean.

“Incredible, nicest prawns I ever ate.” My dad says. I glow with pride and polish off another glass of prosecco.

“Bang.” My brother’s cracker almost gives me a heart attack. He pops his purple paper hat on his head, ripping the side of it, so it keeps sliding down, turning into a medieval collar around his neck. He reads a groan-worthy joke.

Don’t roll your eyes. It’s Christmas, I tell myself.

Time to serve up the main event; my turkey is patiently resting, covered in foil. Walking into the kitchen, I scream. The three dogs sit on the sofa bed. There between them lies a turkey leg.

My eyes dart around the room, hands fluttering uselessly.

A stampede of people rushes into the kitchen. I point towards the offenders; my mouth is moving, but there are no words.

“Oh no,” my mum begins to say.

“Ha-ha-ha.” My dad interrupts her howling, yes, howling with laughter. He sees before the rest of us do. The turkey is resting, and the foil is in place. The dogs are playing with a squeaky plastic toy in the shape of a turkey leg.

Yes, you never forget your first time—Oh, you saucy bunch. It was my first time cooking a Christmas dinner, not what you are thinking.


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