With its £81 price tag, our Christmas turkey had clearly not just gone to a Russell Group university, but had gone into the Goldman Sachs grad scheme straight afterwards.
We called him Derek, because we figured that something at £81 can’t really be an ‘it’. And being a house comprised mainly of males, we couldn’t really spend four hours wandering round our kitchen asking how ‘she’ was getting on. He needed to be a bloke, and he needed to have gone down for the cause. Apart from anything, I liked the idea that, if I were worth the same kilo price as Derek, I would sell for around £1400, which sounds a fair one to me.
Rather unnervingly, Derek also came with his own biographical notes. Scrabbling around in the smart box in which we collected him from the butcher, we found a short pen picture of the idyllic life he had led, and instructions as to how to make the best of him. He was raised on a farm in a part of rural Worcestershire that, on closer inspection, turned out to be more or less within the Birmingham City limits. He had been free to wander around the grassy fields of the farm, learning his subjunctives and reaching Grade 7 on the viola, before some time in early December, he met the stun gun and that was that.
Now, you either like meat or you don’t, and I have great respect for people to commit to going through their own life without it, slightly less if they bang on about it all the time and make the rest of us feel guilty. But I am as convinced as I can be that the collection of atomic material that became Derek, because it had to become something, had about as good a life in those Worcestershire fields as it could possibly have had, and that was what I was paying top dollar for. Derek’s life was about as far as it is possible to be from the miserable shit-show that unfolds before you courtesy of PETA, if you search for the wrong thing on Google.
When I originally went into the butcher in Midhurst back in November, I had no idea that my mother-in-law would end up paying for it, as her gift to the house for the festive period. So, with animal welfare and great taste battling it out for first place in my priorities, I ordered ‘the best version of the smallest turkey you’ve got’. As I walked out, I felt happy that, a month later, I would be the proud possessor of a small, but perfectly formed thing with an attached price tag in the high thirties, possibly low forties. When she went in to pay for it, the butcher asked her ‘if she was ready for this?’, and handed out a figure that was only £19 less than my first car. Or enough to join all the top 5 political parties in Britain and see which one you disliked the least at the end of the year.
And I have to say that, besides Derek being in the event beyond delicious, he made our Christmas in a number of other compelling ways, too. First, in a manner that made the whole thing an adventure to be savoured rather than a chore to be endured, we all sat round the table three nights ago and planned a feast worthy of his life in that Midland pasture. Secondly, we all of us cooked, spending a happy three or four hours of co-operation revolving round the island and stove making sure that everything that went with Derek was as good as it possibly could be. Thirdly, we dug down to the deepest part of the cellar – the only bit left unviolated by Trevor and David that night back in September 2015- and chose one single bottle of wine that would do him justice. Not industrial quantities, note, just the one bottle. And finally, we sat down with the reverence he deserved, and we enjoyed every bit. It was by a distance the best Christmas lunch of my life.
Life has many opportunities for guilt, and many occasions when an event utterly fails to live up to the hype, which is why it is always so delightful when reality exceeds forecast. Derek did not die in vain.