Tur­key and all the

The hor­rors and de­lights of din­ing out over the fes­tive sea­son con­sid­ered.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - TASTE - By MA­RINA O’LOUGH­LIN

IF ever there were a phrase to strike fear into the heart, it’s this one. Apart from “All you can eat buf­fet”, th­ese words are the ex­cuse for the most crimes com­mit­ted against food since chefs first plas­tered Knorr stock cubes over an in­no­cent chicken breast.

There’s the stuff­ing, a sub-Paxo horror of clag that at­taches it­self to the roof of your mouth like the crea­ture in Alien. Chipo­latas with the tex­ture of os­si­fied rab­bit drop­pings. Leath­ery roast pota­toes, sug­ary, fill­ing-both­er­ing cran­berry jelly, grouty bread sauce with enough clove to cure toothache.

And the tur­key – a greige, stringy beast, slump­ing ex­haust­edly on its bier of parsnips. It’s the poul­try universe’s least ap­peal­ing bird thrust into a lime­light it de­serves about as much as I de­serve a pop mu­sic award. And do not even get me started on what batch cater­ing does to sprouts. Sul­phuric.

A home­made Christ­mas din­ner can be a thing of Dick­en­sian beauty, but restau­rant ver­sions seem to have gone through some kind of trans­mo­gri­fi­ca­tion ma­chine. Never has any meal made me want cheese on toast more.

Christ­mas Day is a time for giv­ing. And giv­ing un­til it hurts. The fes­tive sea­son is an ex­cuse for many restau­rants to get as en­thu­si­as­ti­cally loot-hun­gry as those vul­tures at Valen­tine’s who smil­ingly scalp you be­cause you’re so loved-up you won’t no­tice the ex­tra money for the ba­nal set meal and the “free” red rose­bud. A ton a head is about par for the course be­fore you even at­tempt a small sherry; and I hope they’re plat­inum-plat­ing the truf­fled chicken they’re serv­ing at a lux­ury ho­tel, given the prices they charge at such places for Christ­mas Day lunch.

Other peo­ple

Other peo­ple be­have very strangely at this time of year. In the lead-up to Christ­mas, it’s the of­fice party, that arena for peo­ple who don’t nor­mally go to restau­rants un­less they sell bread roll “subs” by the yard. There’s cry­ing and singing and bad party hat-wear­ing and fight­ing and snog­ging and vom­it­ing – and that’s just the man­age­ment.

On Christ­mas Day it­self, the mood is more som­bre. Restau­rants are pop­u­lated by fam­i­lies who leap at the ex­cuse to slope off home early to Christ­mas tele­vi­sion, so as not to en­dure too long a ses­sion with barely tol­er­ated rel­a­tives. This is an event whose cu­ri­ous form of melan­choly can­not be punc­tured by any num­ber of cheap crack­ers.

All Christ­mas pud­dings

Here’s just what you want af­ter a gazil­lion-calo­rie lunch: a gazil­lion-calo­rie dessert. I re­alise I’m in a mi­nor­ity here, but I loathe Christ­mas pud­ding, an oafish, doughy oik of a thing, reek­ing of an­ti­sep­tic spices and gluey with fat and wrinkly fruit.

And then – ex­cel­lent idea – lard it up with brandy but­ter. I hate mince pies, too, es­pe­cially if the restau­rant has help­fully mi­crowaved them so the mince­meat is about the same tem­per­a­ture as the sun. Bite into one of th­ese and it will strip off lay­ers of skin from your gob as ef­fec­tively as an acid peel.

Chefs like to get cre­ative with th­ese kinds of things, so they give us Christ­mas pud­ding ice-cream. Or mince-pie brulee or cup­cakes. I’ve seen mince pie mac­a­roons and “Christ­mas tri­fle truf­fles”, for God’s sake. In the US, I’ve seen that ice-cream spe­cial­ists Salt & Straw in foodie Mecca Port­land, Oregon, is of­fer­ing a tur­key ge­lato. A small sliver of per­fectly affine stil­ton is the only sane ri­poste to this kind of ut­ter non­sense.

Restau­rant staff

Ba­si­cally, they hate us for so many rea­sons. Big par­ties tip ap­pallingly (see above for gen­eral be­hav­iour). Fam­ily par­ties, ditto,

at this time of the year, the tur­key – the poul­try universe’s least ap­peal­ing bird – gets thrust into a lime­light it doesn’t de­serve.

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