a sort of plan


It’s Christmas eve, Luca is asleep on the sofa, both the flat and via Galvani are disconcertingly quiet and still. It’s not quite dark enough to turn the lights on, but nearly. The half light is rather nice, as is the scent of the clementine leaves and the curls of peel on a plate on the table . The pears poached in red wine are a bit soft and the herring patè is a bit salty, which isn’t actually a bad thing as I inadvertently bought unsalted bread which Romans call sciocco, which means without salt or stupid, pane sciocco, stupid bread. Good bread though, particularly with salty things.

Having changed my mind back and forth at least a dozen times: ambivalence always lingers at this time of year, I didn’t actually book our flights to London until the day before yesterday, which means I didn’t make any real plans, food or otherwise. Fortunately I am surrounded by people who do, not only that, they are accommodating and willing to adapt them. Tonight we are going to the other side of Rome to my friend Elizabeth’s for dinner, tomorrow I will cook an elemental christmas lunch for four, then on Thursday we fly from Rome to Bristol and then head down to my parents new house in Symondsbury in Dorset for the week in-between and New Year. The plan is that I write as much as I can while Luca goes feral in the garden with his cousins.


Turkeys should have been ordered by the end of last week, fortunately my butchers are as accommodating as my friends. The eldest son negotiated me half an eight kilogram bird, then the mother of the family, on the busiest day of the year, boned it – making a series of nifty cuts inside to catch the stuffing, then deftly eased the skin away from the flesh so it will wrap its way back around the entire roll. Tacchino ripieno, at least this is the plan. I felt wholly confident as she explained how I should season the bird, her certain hands miming the postion of the sausage and chestnut stuffing and demonstrating how I should roll and tuck the turkey into a tight log and secure it with cooking twine. I am feeling significantly less confident now. I also don’t have any twine, or, come to think of it, sage. At least the chestnuts are peeled.

I’ve turned the light on, the fairy lights on the wall too, which have a fade in and out effect which make them seem malfunctional, or eccentric, or both, and me slightly woozy, but not in a bad way. I really should go and peel potatoes, top and tail turnips or sort out the giblets, or maybe I’ll do everything the morning after drinking too much coffee and eating more than my fair share of panetone. Happy Christmas and I wish you all, whatever plans you may or may not have, peace (even if it’s the noisy kind) and good things.



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43 responses to “a sort of plan

  1. Merry Christmas – we are preparing our meal, too. All of it bound on tradition.

  2. Penny

    Preparing ours too but I think I’d have a complete meltdown if I was to peel chestnuts! Thank goodness for the vacuum packed ones! Good old Delia’s Old Fashioned Chestnut Stuffing (considered by some us of us to be the best part of Christmas) all prepared and in the fridge alongside the sherry trifle. Have a wonderful Christmas.

    • rachel

      I am sad to say I didn’t have trifle this year, I hope yours was delicious. thank you and again happy new year to you xx

  3. Merry Christmas, happy hole, and all that. Thanks for a year’s worth of pleasure.

    Here’s to a great 2014.

    Love to all. xoxo

    • rachel

      Thanks so much Vic and really thank you to you for making my life here nicer and fuller. Love and happy new year R and L xx

  4. Whoops. I meant happy hols, of course. I didn’t mistype – autocorrect did me in.

  5. Jan Fielden

    Happy Christmas Rachel. It’s given me so much pleasure reading your blogs and trying your recipes. I’ve got to know you again – what a happy thing. I’ll think of you in Dorset with your family and hope the writing goes well. love Jan

  6. Merry Christmas, and have a wonderful holiday! Thank you for the wonderful recipes and posts this year.

  7. Rachel. As we discussed on our last visit – I am the furthest thing from a “foodie” that you know, yet this Thanksgiving I made a turkey roll stuffed with my mother’s recipe (bread, sausage, onions, celery and apples). I rolled and tied the two pieces of turkey breast with twine in a haphazardly fashion. It looked a mess, but turned out to be moist and delicious. It was my first and most brilliant turn at making a turkey roll. I admit to cheating a bit by asking the butcher to pound out the breasts for me. I certainly didn’t want to take on too much, too soon. The point here is that you are a wonderful cook and have nothing to worry about! Dinner will be perfect. I love reading your blog – you have a great flair for storytelling. Have a wonderful time with your family in England. Happy new year to you and my sweet new boyfriend, Luca. See you when you come back to Rome. hugs. toni

  8. EllenT

    Happy Christmas Rachel

  9. Laurie Scott

    Happy Christmas, Rachel : )

  10. have a wonderful christmas rachel!

  11. Betta

    Happy Christmas Rach 🙂

  12. Lovely photos and thoughts. I wish you noisy peace too. Sophie

    • rachel

      Thank you Sophie, it was noisy and quite peaceful. happy new year to you and I look forward to sharing more of both our writing and thoughts this year xx

  13. laura

    Only the best wishes to you and your loved ones for the holidays and for the coming year (which we, your readers, already know will be great because your book will be part of it!). Thank you for sharing so much of your life and your cooking and your talents with us through your posts and thank you for so many wonderful recipes, explained so perfectly.
    Safe travels and fingers crossed that your plans work out; mine so often don’t … at least not the way I planned them … but somehow it does all work out so I’ve learned (am still learning!) to go with the flow.
    Look at all you HAVE done!
    Auguroni di cuore.

    • rachel

      thanks laura and thank you to you for reading and commenting and generally making my life here nicer. happy new year, let hope this is the year we finally meet xx

  14. Buon natale e felice anno nuovo!

  15. Hope you made it to Blighty safely – weather has been extraordinary to say the least. All good wishes for 2014 Rachel – so looking forward to your book!

  16. Is it odd that I always read your posts and wish I was hanging out in your living room? Just so, so lovely. Indeed, this post was lovely, and I’m glad there are others in the world who are as occasionally forgetful and scattered as I am. In solidarity!

    • rachel

      I wish I could say pop around now, I have many things I would like to ask you about the bizarre and wonderful process of writing. One day I hope. happy new year to you x

  17. Have a wonderful Christmas, right up to Epiphany and well beyond!

  18. Merry belated Christmas to you too, Rachel, and may 2014 bring you many good things to savor. Ken

  19. I so enjoy all your posts and this one is just lovely. Happy New Year and I look forward to more in 2014.

  20. With all the holiday distraction and travel, I just read this now so cannot wish you happy holidays back. What I can do, however, is wish you a very happy new year!

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