The bleak slurry of gift catalogues arrived with increasing insistence throughout November, as though stuff itself might make better what ailed the world and what ails us all.
The trick was not for one moment to get caught up in the momentum of that kind of giving. Donata was of Italian stock.
She knew that one good warm meal, steam and smoke mixing in the talkative air over the big table, all the family together, meant more than a sustained seasonal theme throughout her home (frost at midnight, maybe, or urban plaid, or sugar’n’spice), more than a festively wrapped gift under a fashionably dressed tree, more than readying the potatoes in the small hours and swaddling them in a (clean) white teacloth after the parboiling, before that annual extreme sport of collating all the carbohydrate in the house and eating it – no, making sure all the family ate it – while trying still to look edible for her man, in maybe a plunge-line winter white cashmere ballet top or, if she was economical, which, if she was honest, her man might prefer after all the outlay with the bird and the doings that went with it, the chestnuts and the fulfilled chipolatas, and the pudding made with dried fruit sourced outwith all known war zones, yes, for sure her man would prefer the velvet that had overtones of rebellion and romance, if also of mothballs.
It was to this end, the avoidance of too-muchness, that Donata had ordered but the one thing from a catalogue this year: the full Audubon Roast, Quailinsnipeinpartridgeinpheasantinguineafowlingooseinsurelytogoodness one stuffed turkey.
In the centre of the quail she planned to place a small brass metal egg.
After all, the stuff in those catalogues was tempting. She herself had that empty feeling that needs filling, but.