Good Food Blog
Eat, drink and be merryPosted at 12:02PM, 16 December 2008 by Stuart Walton - Food and wine writer
Pardon me talking with my mouth full (these Co-op mince pies are rather delish), but it's that time of year. The Grande Bouffe is upon us, when we'll carelessly stuff ourselves from morn till night, not knowing or caring how it will end.
There are usually doctors on hand about now to warn us what the festive calorie intake tots up to. A survey carried out in 2006 by Ocean Spray cranberries (and who asked them?) found that average Christmas Day consumption amounts to around 5500 calories. 5500? That's not even trying.
I notice that the alcohol listed stretches no further than a glass of fizz, a tot of Bailey's, a noggin of sherry (of all the cute things) and a couple of glasses of white wine. That would be a drought in our house. If I'm not cramming the cocktail shaker with ice by noon, it means I forgot to come home last night.
To burn off all those calories, we are warned by the doctor, we'd have to run a whole marathon - TWICE. Guess what though? We're not going to. What you gonna do about it? It's Christmas! The survey went on to find that two-thirds of respondents confessed to doing no exercise on Christmas Day. That's because it's Christmas! What part of this don't the cranberries understand?
We all begin December by advising ourselves to cut back, rein things in a bit, not go mad this year. We are in the grip, in case you hadn't noticed, of an economic downturn , so there's all the more reason to draw in our horns, and keep ourselves awake at night imagining January's credit card bills.
The whole point of a midwinter festival is that, once upon a time, every winter marked an economic downturn
As the doctors tut, and the alcohol charities nag, though, we should remember that the whole point of a midwinter festival - appropriated by, but long predating, the Christian calendar - is that, once upon a time, every winter marked an economic downturn. Food was scarce, the nights were icy, the mornings were dark and cheerless. Bringing evergreen branches indoors and decorating them with light was an act of spirit-warming defiance of Jack Frost, and a great leap forward in the imagination to the distant spring.
A big feast was an indispensable part of the revelry. It centred on the fattened farmbird, accompanied by what foods had been preserved from the summer and autumn, and on sharing what you had with those who had no farmbirds to fatten.
We know Christmas has been wrecked by high street stores playing Paul McCartney, rapacious profiteering, drunken Santas in their theme park grottos, and hours of crap on the telly. Which is why the feasting and tippling is the last reminder of a Christmas that we made for ourselves. No one's saying we could or should eat like this all year, but just for once, health police, would you mind butting out and leaving us to it?
Meanwhile, if it's your thing, have yourselves a merry little Christmas. And if you're among the one-third of respondents who actually do engage in exercise on Christmas Day, that's just scary.