Tuesday, 18 December 2007
I've been thinking for a few days now about which single item I would choose as a Christmas foodstuff (if such a thing were even remotely possible in these times of total consumption) to capture the essence of the festive season.
There aren't, in all honesty, many things I do like about Christmas food. There are a few which I think I'm going to like, but end up being very disappointed by, and quite a lot of things that I don't like at all.
Starting with the second category, I always associate Boxing Day with cold meats, cheese, crackers and pickles. I don't like pickles - or more specifically, I don't like pickled onions or piccalilli anywhere near as much as I think I will. Still I persist in buying a jar every year, laying out a spread of ham, blue cheese, cream cheese, crusty bread, crackers and port for visiting friends to tuck into. The pickled onions end up tasting acrid in my mouth, and the vinegar causes me to retch slightly, so that I have to swallow a large gulp of port (heh) to get rid of the taste. The same applies to ludicrously mixed chutneys (such as Apple & Green Ginger Wine) which are always thrown into Christmas hampers. Invariably, one spoonful is ladelled onto the plate and the rest left to go mouldy, turning up sometime in May at the back of the cupboard.
The list of things I don't like, and never will, is topped by that horrible prehistoric bird that so dominates the Christmas table. Everybody says turkey is dry, and so it is. It is also extremely unpleasant to handle for cooking, very large and just... kind of disturbing. There is a city farm not far from my house, and there it's possible to come face to face with living examples of these monsters as they strut around with their wattles wobbling. Yeuch! Cranberry sauce does not redeem it, neither do the harsh realities of commercial turkey breeding, the odious Bernard Matthews, or outbreaks of avian flu.
I am fond of sprouts - I really am - though I appear to be alone in my family in this regard. As a child I was not so different from virtually every kid in despising them to the point of not being able to contemplate putting them in my mouth. But our tastebuds develop, and we can grow to enjoy foods which we would never have dreamed we could. I'm also ever so slightly in love with the (probably fake) Victorian idea of the Yuletide season, and very much like the idea of a bubble & squeak breakfast on St Stephen's morn, though I have never gone as far as actually making one, and don't think I ever would make one which would be faithful to Mrs Beeton's recipe) Despite that, it seems rather lame to nominate sprouts, so I think it will have to be something else.
I must exclude port. It is simply too delicious, my darling, and man cannot live by port alone. A nice ripe stilton accompanies it so well, but is slightly less satisfying when served on its own.
Somewhat unhappily, I am settling on a sweet delight. A light but comforting treat for the festive season. A food steeped in ancient traditions of sprinkling libations of mulled wine and oil whilst intoning a prayer. Less heavy than figgy pudding, less tedious than mince pie, requiring no adornment save that already upon its back, the wondrous gift of the Yule Log. Yum.