Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Rib of Beef or Baked Turbot? Noel Way

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Rib of Beef or Baked Turbot? Noel Way

Article excerpt

Nothing says good times to the British like a spot of self-flagellation. The country rejoiced in the ghastly weather that marked the Jubilee, delighted in the happy chaos of the Olympics security fiasco and was palpably disappointed when the Games came off without a hitch.

Such whinges merely whetted our appetite for the annual highlight of the national calendar of complaint: Christmas. There's all that awful consumerism to start with and then we're never allowed to forget how they do things so much better on the Continent--not least, the festive dinner.

Every year, the papers are full of chefs whining that they can't stand sprouts or turkey, and that panettone makes mincemeat of mince pies. Mark Hix gleefully describes "that sinking feeling of, 'Oh no, not turkey again', while Michel Roux Jr (born in Kent, mind) has the temerity to criticise Christmas pudding for being "really heavy". Well, duh, as Gregg Wallace might say.

I was even forced to defend the merits of Stilton to Rowley Leigh at Le Cafe Anglais's fifth birthday party last month, though we agreed on the beauty of a sherry trifle. Meanwhile, Edinburgh's Tom Kitchin has been boasting in the Independent that he'll be serving something called "lamb on hay" this Christmas, adding, somewhat poignantly, "Every year my sister begs the family to have a traditional turkey with all the trimmings but I love to do something a little different."

Sister Kitchin, I feel your pain. I enjoy a rib of beef or a baked turbot as much as the next glutton, but they're available all year round for those that can afford them. Have steak on your birthday, or salmon en croute on Christmas Eve, but please, the 25 December belongs to the birds.


Turkey, goose, guinea fowl, capon--I'm not fussed as long as it comes with herby stuffing, crisp little sausages and fluffy roast potatoes, topped off with creamy bread sauce and a little something sharp and fruity on the side. …

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