Sunday, December 23, 2007

There was a star in the east last night...

Well, since this is my first proper written post for a while — for which I apologise profusely: it has been a very busy time lately — it might as well feature a proper link. And I can’t think of a better link to provide you with at this time of year than Nigel Slater’s final column in the Observer before Christmas. It isn’t a food column in the sense that any recipes are introduced. Instead, a wonderful evocation of the Christmas markets in Vienna. Studded with special little things, and just like opening one of the food cupboards in our house this weekend.

We have plump little mince pies, which would have scurrying legs and wide smiles if they were alive. There are bulging, slightly dented bags of sugar so dark it looks almost black, most of which will be beaten into a rich, cirrhosifyingly alcoholic rum butter this afternoon.

There is a ham from what (one hopes) was a large, floppy-eared, snuffly pig in Norfolk. It sits in the fridge, golden-skinned, beside a Stilton cheese which we hope will be intense and spicy. I feel like doing a little jig, for real, when I think of the presents I have wrapped, and the look on people’s faces as they rip the paper away. I don’t feel ashamed in the least to confess that I have even given the Veuve Clicquot champagne-bottle a brisk, gentle, utterly delighted pat as I have walked from hall to kitchen.

Before uncorking it on Christmas morning, however, there is a final bit of wrapping to negotiate, stuffing to prepare, and the turkey to smother in butter and rashers of streaky bacon. There is green, prickly holly to scatter around, and there are decorations from all over Europe to peer at between the branches of the tree. Merry Christmas, everyone.