What were you doing last March? I bet it wasn't getting ready for Christmas. But you'll be glad to know that someone was thinking of you and your Christmas dinner. Yes, that bag of Brussels sprouts just didn't happen to appear on supermarket shelves overnight. Someone, somewhere, carefully planted and cultivated your dinner months ago.
Amongst all the gloom about undesirable food industry practices, it was refreshing to read a report carried out by Asda on the time it takes to grow the quality veggies, rear our turkeys, bake the Christmas Cakes and even plan and shop for the traditional Christmas dinner.
This is a quick low down on the main components of Christmas Dinner and why we should take pleasure in every mouthful of the most anticipated dinner of the year.
The turkey was not a choice for mainstream diners until the 1950s when turkeys became affordable due to modern intensive farming methods. Now 87% of British consumers opt for the turkey dinner at Christmas. While turkey prices became affordable for the masses 60 years ago, today's supermarket reduced prices reflect how far intensive farming has gone.
Saying that, we have also seen that traceability has become an important factor for the well heeled Christmas shopper. Organic or free-range turkeys including white, bronze and black varieties are free to roam and shelter and can be bought directly from the traditional farms dotted around the UK and Ireland or good local butchers.
Saying that, whatever turkey you buy, there are lots of great ways to jazz up your Christmas dinner, whether it is the maple and mustard roast vegetables*, the spicy ginger glazed ham*, the homemade sauces* such as cranberry and port, or the clove infused medieval bread sauce. Sure maybe we can do without our feathered friend. :)
If you have left it too late to sow your own plate of vegetables for the Christmas dinner, (Asda tells us that, that should have happened nine months ago) why don't you seriously consider helping your local environment economically and socially by purchasing veggies at your local farmer's markets, shops or the local country market. You'll be guaranteed the freshest harvest vegetables.
If that isn't an option, there has been a marked improvement in the vegetables supplied by supermarkets with most responding to the needs of consumers in their area to support local and or regional farmers. Traditionally Christmas dinner vegetables are of course our winter varieties and all available locally, weather permitting!
My only advice here is to make a list of the type and quantity of vegetables you realistically need over three or four days of Christmas and stick to it when you go into Christmas overdrive. Planning means you will only buy what you actually need, which is very important at this time of over indulgence. This is also better by far for your pocket and better still for the food charities who will be picking up the glut from supermarkets to feed those less fortunate than ourselves this Christmas.
And now onto dessert. While I can happily praise many of our British and Irish vegetable and poultry suppliers for their insistence on reaching the highest of standards in animal care practice and creating quality produce, I can't shower the same praise on our industrial bakers. Sorry, no goodwill here.
The Christmas Cake that Asda claims that their suppliers baked six months ago is not the rich fruit cake you and I would bake. Those of us who bake would know that there is no benefit to baking a fruit cake that long advance. A quick look at the ingredients in Asda's Royal Iced Cake shows they have dispensed with the traditional eggs:butter:flour ratio to dried fruit and whiskey which naturally preserve and mature the flavour of the cake and instead have included some appetising additives such as sulphur dioxide and potassium metabisulphite. These are both considered allergens and are often used in the textile industry for dyeing cotton - yum yum. My advice is if you don't bake your own and insist that you need a Christmas cake, visit your local farmers market where you can place an order for a far superior product.
So no we know it takes nine months to get the food on the table. Hopefully it takes your family a little more than nine minutes to eat!