The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Food & Drink -


My name is Oliver Pritch­ett and I want to tell this sup­port group about my ad­dic­tion to Christ­mas food mail or­der brochures. Some­times I get through as many as four in a day. At first I thought I could con­trol my habit, just pick­ing up the odd leaflet in Marks & Spencer, but then I found I was get­ting onto stronger stuff: full colour pic­tures of glis­ten­ing clove-stud­ded hams and great Stil­ton cheeses, preen­ing game pies, sides of smoked sal­mon and even three-bird roasts.

This brochure stuff is too read­ily avail­able th­ese days; a new temp­ta­tion comes through the let­ter­box al­most ev­ery day. I’m fright­ened I might soon go for the ul­ti­mate buzz and I might start ex­per­i­ment­ing with selections of ham­pers.

I never or­der any­thing. The true plea­sure is in the suc­cu­lent prose evok­ing a fan­tasy of gra­cious coun­try liv­ing. You’ll no­tice the pick­les are al­ways named af­ter women, so you have, say, a jar of Ara­bella’s date and per­sim­mon chut­ney or Brenda’s pick­led wal­nuts to go with that gi­ant Wilt­shire ham which you will still be eat­ing in mid-March. All cakes are baked in farm­houses and all the an­i­mals which pro­vide the meat are bliss­fully happy — or they were up to a cer­tain mo­ment. I bet even those mini-sausage rolls were con­tented. They tell you the ex­act loch ev­ery sal­mon comes from and (prac­ti­cally) give the post­code of ev­ery sin­gle Glouces­ter Old Spot pig.

Of all the fan­tasies th­ese brochures of­fer the best is “the pantry” – that bit of par­adise which al­ways holds a leftover home-made steak and kid­ney pie. Who has a pantry th­ese days? All I have is a store cup­board and, when I open it, a packet of bas­mati rice falls on my head. Now I’ve got that off my chest I need a group hug.

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