Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Christmas is coming and ...........the turkey is being evasive!

Since moving to France in 2010 we have been lucky enough to experience another style of Christmas. One that I much prefer, one that is less commercialised, less stressful and much more family orientated and most of all one that is all about good food and good company.

For our first Christmas en France we were invited to a neighbours on Christmas Eve.  After "Aperos" we went to mass at the local village church and returned an hour later to start our festivities.  We ate and talked, ate and drank, and ate again. A wide selection of local produce including some things we had never tried before, boudin blanc, jeruselem artichokes and wild boar, was on offer but no center piece of a large golden turkey for the meal.

The following Christmas we reverted back to a traditional English Christmas meal on the 25th to please all our visitors.  I tried to find a plump turkey big enough, but struggled to find anything appropriate or at a realistic price.  We therefore ended up with a capon, but despite the trimmings being prepared, a homemade Christmas pud and mince pies at the ready the bird failed to deliver. We were all hankering after a nice roast slice of turkey breast!

So last year I decided to go in hunt of a locally produced fresh bird!  First ports of call were local butchers of which there were a couple of recommendations, however any items of interest found were on sale at a considerable cost per kilo and a second mortgage would have been required for 8kg of meat!  I checked out the freezers at the local supermarket but no frozen birds or prepared turkey crowns in sight.

By 19th Dec I was getting desperate.  On my way back to the car after another fruitless search on market day, I put my head inside a large makeshift marquee that had appeared near the church at the weekly farmers market.  There, inside, were farmers wrapped in thick coats sitting on wooden benches puffing on cigarettes deep in conversation, but most importantly an array of birds on straw with their legs tied together. Chicken, duck, capon, guinea fowl and the all important turkey, but all in fine fettle and certainly not oven ready! 

With no choice I took the plunge and haggled with a farmer who had a very nice big black Norfolk type turkey.  After completing the purchase he handed over the bird.  I politely asked if he could do "the deed" for me as I was not experienced in such matters.  Rather horrifically for me he said he could not kill it as it was not allowed at the market. I would have to take the bird home and do it myself!  Rather red faced (and no doubt with a lot of sniggering, by the locals)  I left the market carrying the bird upside down whilst it flapped and squalked its way with me back to the car. I could not look it in the eye for I knew what its fate would be.  I was terrified I would get attached and it would become another member of the growing menagerie!

The road trip of 10 minutes home was traumatic to say the least, and by the time I was within site of the house I could no longer cope with the noise or smell coming from the back of the car.  I took a short detour to the local farm and knocked at the door asking for help.  In true neighbourly style my lovely neighbours took the matter in hand.  All was dealt with very quickly and in no time at all I was back in the car with an oven ready bird for Christmas feeling very proud, if a little sad.

After careful preparation the beautiful bird was placed centre stage on the dining table on 25th Dec for all to see. It truly was wonderful and really tasty.  From now on its fresh all the way for me, despite the effort needed.  I may need to bribe the neighbours to enlist their help again with a couple of turkey and stuffing sandwiches though!