I knew it was Christmas when it was 42 degrees in the Safeway parking lot but inside the store, the checkout girls were wearing Santa hats and Frosty the Snowman was being murdered by someone who used to be a pop singer on the store radio. Jimmy Barnes? John Farnham? John Stevens? Cat Stevens? Neil Diamond? I don't know.
I knew it was Christmas when I read in the paper that someone had been complaining that a school had banned the original central Christmas figure, whose name has five letters, to avoid offending minorities and then I read a few more paragraphs and realised they meant Santa.
I knew it was Christmas last year when I kept ticking mental checklists of my relatives; but still missed one until 5pm on Christmas Eve, as the store doors slammed shut, when their name popped into my mind unprompted.
I knew it was Christmas when I started to prepare the biggest eggplant and potato curry I've ever made and discovered I didn't have a casserole big enough to fit, nor a spare.
Eggplant, potato and spinach curry.
Dice four large potatoes and fry them in oil in a deepish frypan or wok in batches until done. Remove. Cube four eggplants and fry these in similar fashion, adding more oil if necessary. Remove. Chop two large onions and fry until golden, adding more oil if necessary. I didn't say this dish was light. Into the onion, stir two inches of finely chopped ginger root, a heaped teaspoon of crushed cumin seeds and a heaped teaspoon of turmeric. Fry for a minute. Now add four fresh chopped green chillies, two cans of diced tomatoes and their juice and two teaspoons of salt. Now add the fried potatoes and eggplants, a bunch of roughly chopped spinach and half a cup of water. Stir to combine. Cover. Simmer. Add more water if necessary to maintain a light simmer. Now add two teaspoons of brown sugar and cook uncovered until simmer recedes.
Happy Christmas. Remember, it's not about the presents.
It's about the food.