Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat. Well, so the story goes. I am a lover of food. I am not a connoisseur of food.
Some menus bamboozle me and when they bamboozle me they really annoy me. They annoy me to the stage that they can put me off my food. No, I just like food.
I like my chips as chips and not French fries. I like my tatties to be potatoes and not pomme de terre. I like chicken and pork and, yes, veal, coated in breadcrumbs or even fish dressing. But why does it have to be called a schnitzel? And why, oh why, are they called mince pies when the mince is lacking, andthe pastry is packed with currants and raisins and other tasteless bits of dried-up fruit that would be better to the birds. Oh, and don’t get me started on coq au vin!
I don’t recall ever tasting goose, but I will someday. I have tasted many exotic things but they all went by the body names.
On a camping weekend at the Rothbury music festival a few tears ago we discovered a wonderful butcher just down the road from a wonderful pub called the Turks Head. It was this butcher that introduced us campers to the delight of crocodile, kangaroo and giraffe. They certainly beat the budget-buy beefburgers (not hamburgers because there’s no ham in them and they actually derive from Hamburg folk who moved to the USA) that normally occupy the frying pan of the camper. We were curious, somewhat dubious, at first – but delighted later. We bought them because it said on the label: giraffe, crocodile, kangaroo.
That festival at Rothbury has an abiding memory for me and it wasn’t the food. I’d be in my late 50s and had never seen a Punch and Judy show all the way to the end. There was one pitched in the village and I joined the excited, variously-aged audience to enjoy the spectacle. It was the middle of the afternoon and it was wonderful. The youngsters cheered and booed, and the adults pretended they really weren’t interested and were only there for the bairns.
But, like myself, they were there for the show. Not knowing the script, when the call of nature called, I nipped over to the Turks and when I came back – they were gone. Punch and Judy and their magical red and white theatre had disappeared. I searched for them. I asked for them. I was sure they would put on another performance. But it was not be. I crawled into my sleeping bag that night and could only wonder and dream about what became of Punch and Judy. Half-a-dozen years on, I still hanker for the ending. Perhaps one day.
Food. Christmas is approaching. My dinner this year will be on Boxing Day with my son and his fianceé (at their house) because he’s working in a restaurant on the big day. When I do the Christmas dinner we have a ritual. He detests Brussel sprouts, so he always gets one, just one, and it’s the first thing he tucks away. He doesn’t like oranges but always gets one in his stocking. And it stays on my mantlepiece to be replaced the following year.