This will be a series detailing the ups and downs of my experience as a first-year university student. For privacy reasons, the name of the university itself as well as people I meet along the way will remain anonymous.
I’ll start with a recollection of my flat’s Christmas dinner.
It was weird planning the actual meal, the food to buy and the time of the big event, because until now every single Christmas I’ve experienced has been a standard turkey affair cooked by my dad starting at around 2 o’clock. So when the topic of a flat dinner came up, I was already imagining us with our colourful cracker-hats around the table digging into a plate of gravy-covered turkey. This, as I discovered, was evidently not what my flatmates were thinking. One, tired of eating the same old ‘dry’ turkey, wanted to experiment with something new, another decided they wouldn’t eat anything but chicken. I was perfectly happy to eat gammon, chicken or turkey I really couldn’t have cared less as long as we had perfectly crispy roast potatoes and a couple of yorkshire puddings.
We decided to just make the decision in the shop, see whichever meat ‘felt right’ at that moment. ‘YOLO’, am I right?
We have one guy in our flat who fancies himself a ‘butcher’ (he worked on the deli counter for a supermarket), who proclaimed that we were all to have beef. Beef? I was horrified. I’m pretty fussy about how my meat’s cooked, you see, and I have never understood the appeal of slightly bloody meat, it needs to be cooked. I was regretting not putting a more fervent vote in for the ‘way-too-dry- turkey.
I was, however, in the minority, and so I was forced to look on as our resident meat-man surveyed the meat on show. It took an age, but he seemed to know what he was doing. I wasn’t going to sulk about the meat, I was going to suck it up and try new things. That’s what university is all about isn’t it? Or so they say.
We bought stuffing for 70p and the cheapest carrots we could find. The gravy was going cheap and yorkshires were on offer. Student life indeed.
Whilst standing half upright on the bus home with my bags for life cutting off all blood circulation in my hands, I imagined our half-assed meal: soggy potatoes, undercooked carrots and is-it-even-dead bloody beef. Because here’s the thing; there’s us heading home saturday afternoon with our Christmas dinner goodies, only to be going out that same evening to get, well, sloshed. There was no way we were going to be up early enough on sunday morning to have a well-timed and well-cooked meal prepared by 2 o’clock.
So it goes.
We went out, had a night good enough that most of it was a blurred mess, and woke up at… 2 o’clock.
So dinner’s going to be a bit late then.
We started simple, peeling potatoes, cutting them into little roasties, and then getting started on the carrots. When our butcher finally rose from the dead, he got started on the main event: the beef. Then started a day of grumbling bellies and questioning glances when you turned around to see someone doing the gravy or the mash or the stuffing ‘not like my mum used to’.
Finally, though, after the photos of everyone in embarrassing Christmas jumpers had been taken, and our two quid box of decorations pinned in one corner of the kitchen, we were ready to eat. At 6 o’clock.
I’m laughing as I remember the lot of us crowded round the plates as we served everything up, our phones out taking pictures because oh my god, it looked delicious. We couldn’t believe it. The potatoes were a perfect golden brown, the gravy was thick and the beef, oh man, the beef. It was textbook, but most importantly (to me anyway), it wasn’t bleeding all over the place.
We sat down, all pulled the crackers and laughed at how awful the jokes were, put our pink and green and red cracker-hats on, and proceeded to stuff ourselves silly. It felt like Christmas, a proper Christmas with a table full of famliy and I’ll never forget it. We were all far from home, all came from different backgrounds with different traditions and somehow, somehow, we still managed to make our own little Christmas in our home away from home.
Christmas 2014 has a lot to live up to.