Christmas dinner: let’s talk turkey!

As December rolls on we finally get around to planning our Christmas day. It doesn’t take long. Although government rules would allow us to “bubble” with Mrs P’s family we’ve opted not to do so: with vaccinations on the horizon, why take risks that could undermine the sacrifices we’ve all made this year? And as far as dinner is concerned there’s not a lot to plan – at the end of a year like no other, one thing will remain the same. On Christmas Day roast turkey will once again be the star of the show.

Turkeys first arrived in England in 1526, when Yorkshire-born voyager William Strickland acquired six birds from Native American traders and sold them at Bristol market for tuppence each. At that time the wealthy treated themselves to goose at Christmas, or maybe a boar’s head, while peasants scraped by with whatever meagre fare they could afford.

PHOTO CREDIT: “Roast Turkey” by Turkinator is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Taking time off from bedding mistresses and beheading wives, King Henry VIII is said to be the first Englishman to have eaten turkey for his Christmas dinner. The evidence for this is scanty, although a man who spent so much of his life pulling crackers would doubtless have welcomed such a substantial meal to bolster his virility.

Despite royal patronage the popularity of turkeys at Christmas grew only slowly. Even in the 19th century turkey was not the most popular Christmas roast, because of its relatively high cost. In northern England the wealthy favoured roast beef while in the south they preferred goose. Poorer families often had to make do with rabbit, or even worse.

Christmas is a family time and turkeys are family sized, so as disposable income increased after World War II more families began to treat themselves to a Big Bird as the centrepiece of their seasonal feast. Meanwhile the growing availability of refrigerators also encouraged consumers to think big. By the 21st century England at least 80% of Christmas roast dinners would feature turkey, with many of us eating leftovers for several days afterwards in curries, soups and sandwiches.

In the 19th century Attila the Bun would have been on the Christmas menu, but this year he and Mrs P will both be feasting on brussel sprouts. Yuk!

Eating roast turkey for Christmas is a peculiarly British habit. Although it’s not unknown in some other English-speaking countries, it hasn’t really caught on elsewhere. Fish, shellfish, ham, beef, pork and wild game are all Christmas day favourites in one country or another.

Curiously, in Japan, Kentucky Fried Chicken is said to be a popular Christmas dinner, a tradition dating from a big 1974 marketing campaign called “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” (“Kentucky for Christmas!”) The attraction of KFC at Christmas reportedly lasts to this day, causing some people to order their boxes months in advance or queue for two hours to get their annual fix.

I’ve visited Japan a couple of times and love the country, its culture and its people dearly. However this is one of its customs I’m definitely not going to adopt, although we’d struggle anyway as our lovely little town doesn’t have a KFC. Indeed, we don’t have a McDonald either, so some would say we are doubly blessed!

PHOTO CREDIT: by Adrianna Calvo from Pexels

No, on Christmas day the Platypus Man and Mrs P will be sitting down to a plate of roast turkey, a sausage or two, roast potatoes, a few garden peas and some decent gravy. Mrs P and our rabbit Attila the Bun will also have brussel sprouts. I, however, consider this vile vegetable to be the devil’s cohones, and will steer well clear.

We will wash our turkey down with a glass or two – or maybe three – of “bubbly” (champagne or sparkling white wine) and then retire to the toasty living room, turn on the television and snooze peacefully in front of it until teatime. Ah, the joys of Christmas day, chez Platypus.

Wherever you are, I wish you a joyous Christmas day and a tasty Christmas dinner. Perhaps you too will feast on turkey. But whatever else you find on your plate, I urge you to avoid the brussel sprouts. You have been warned!

PHOTO CREDIT: Public Domain Pictures via Pexels

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What will you be having for Christmas dinner this year? Tell the world about your Christmas menu by submitting a comment.

12 comments

  1. kaymckenziecooke · December 23

    Very interesting and what an enticing day planned. This year we will be having a summer barbecue meal with everyone assembled bringing something to share. We are hoping it doesn’t rain, as it is forecast to. When I was a child, roast goose for the main meal was standard fare.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · December 23

      Ah yes, the legendary southern hemisphere Christmas barbecue! It sounds impossibly idyllic from our perspective…daylength here on 25th December will only be around 7.5 hours and the maximum forecast temperature is just 3°, although rain isn’t expected.

      I like the idea that all the guests bring something to your feast, and I guess a barbecue lends itself to that kind of shared endeavour.
      I hope the rain stays away, and that you have a wonderful time on Christmas Day.

      Like

  2. Ann Mackay · December 23

    No turkey in this house because Hubby is a vegetarian. He’s also chief cook, so he gets to invent something for Christmas, usually wrapped in puff pastry and accompanied by lots of roast veggies. Luckily he’s a good cook, so it’s always tasty! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ann Mackay · December 23

      And I meant to add – Merry Christmas! Hope it’s a very happy one.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Platypus Man · December 23

        Hope you have a great one too. It will be good to blank out the realities of 2020 for a few hours!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ann Mackay · December 23

        Yep, that’s exactly what we intend to do! We’ll just stay home and ignore Covid etc. for a while.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · December 23

      Fair enough. We eat a quite a bit of vegetarian fare, and you can do great things with it. Enjoy!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Mike Powell · December 23

    As for me, I’m having turkey. Here in the US, turkeys are available for a bargain price at Thanksgiving in late November and then again right before Christmas. Growing up, it was always turkey on Thanksgiving and Christmas and ham at Easter.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · December 25

      Enjoy, as I will too (as I write this Mrs P is just preparing our turkey, and will pop it into the oven in about an hour from now!) Can’t wait!

      Over here you can buy turkey at any time, but the best deals are always to be had in the run-up to Christmas.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. TravelwithJun · December 26

    We spent 6 hours for smoking turkey today. It is yummy. I watched the Netflix show “Tudors”, and really love the European history, although the TV shows won’t be 100% historical accurate. Merry Christmas 🎁🎄

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · December 26

      The Tudor period was stuffed full of interesting characters and events, and makes for great televisions dramas. Your turkey sounds tasty, well worth the 6 hours waiting time! Wishing you a (belated) Merry Christmas.!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. ThoughtsBecomeWords · 28 Days Ago

    ….. and a happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

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