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The Christmas chef tells all...

Having spent a considerable amount of time in the kitchen over the past couple of days, at the tail end of a remarkable year, various thoughts have occurred to me. I will not go all Elton John on you and start waxing lyrical about the circle of life. However, here are a few thoughts from the amateur chef's kitchen.

To me, the turkey sums up the Christmas season. It can also be an analogy of life itself. 

Why do we have turkey at Christmas? Indeed, why do we have Christmas at all? The answer, of course, is tradition. Whether it's a religious tradition or a winter solstice festival, somehow the majority of the western world feels compelled to celebrate the time of year. Look at what people say about Christmas, and Christmas dinner, though. They find Christmas too over-commercial, yet shy away from the over-religious fervour that also gets rolled out at the time of year. People find the mixture of dry turkey and sprouts worthy of complaint, year on year. However, they still persist in eating it or serving it up, whether they like it or not. [As an aside, I actually like the Christmas fayre, in case you were wondering!] Looking at how we celebrate Christmas, in food and otherwise, you realise that these so-called traditions have been misinterpreted or misunderstood. For goodness' sake, the traditional Christmas bird in England is the goose, not the turkey!!! For more information, please read Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle. If you don't like sprouts, don't eat them, and if you resent commercialism and religion, then what is left of the season?

Consider the preparation of a turkey a metaphor for a year in one's life. I always see the New Year, especially with its period of public holiday, as a cleansing experience. Out with the old, in with the new. There's an annual cycle. Returning to my turkey (a few pounds of dead foul is going to feature heavily in this article, might as well get on with it). I started with a turkey (it was raw, and in a packet, but it was a turkey). I then spent time removing various bits from its insides. I washed it, prepared it, seasoned it and roasted it. At the end of the day, what did I have? A turkey, that's what. Since I'd cooked the turkey on Christmas Eve (to avoid having to eat at midnight on Christmas day), I woke up on Christmas day to a turkey which would then have other things done to it, to become a meal - the cycle began again, carving, gravying etc. What I'm getting at is that, no matter what you do in the year, you always start and end it the same sort of way. Life is about doing what's necessary to make the best of your turkey (as it were).

This turkey thing is getting a bit much, so let me have a quick aside on the subject of my year. I've had to do a lot this year to keep some things in order and get other things sorted. In the same way as it was unpleasant pulling bits of offal out of the middle of my turkey, it was also unpleasant dealing with certain of the things that life threw at me this year. However, you get on with it, and there's a good reason. The cycle cannot be stopped, life goes on, and the aim of the game is to get a good place on that merry-go-round. Towards the end of the year, I like to have a clean out. Some troubles are not worth starting a new year with. I think that I've managed to clear up various troubles in the last few weeks, both in my personal life and at work. So, while the process has not always been easy and pleasant, I can be relatively positive about the state in which I'll start the next year. However things stand, next year is a clean slate and I'm looking forward to it.

If I could give you all one piece of advice, it would be this, wear sunscreen. The skin of the turkey is an important thing to get right. If my experience of the last couple of days is anything to go by, I will be treating my skin differently on my next foreign holiday. I will be out in the sun for most of the holiday, however, I shall be smearing my skin with butter and covering myself in streaky bacon and tinfoil for all but the last half-day of the holiday, when I will remove the foil and bacon and lay, fully exposed, during which time I shall spoon over myself any liquids that roll off me. Remember, nobody notices if the skin is perfect.

Watch out for next time, when I will be discussing how to promote racial harmony by carving all the meat from the turkey and blending it into a fine paste before serving...

You may also wish to watch out for reports of a new craze on the beaches in summer.

25 December 2001
Ashley Frieze