Et tu, butty. Stabbed in the back by a roll packed with turkey and stuffing, assisted in its mutinous action by chipolata sausages, two cold roast potatoes, and a brace of sage and onion stuffing balls. These friends I once gathered around in plentiful numbers on Christmas Eve have turned against me, driving the blade in deep and twisting it for maximum discomfort.
I should have known this was no longer my culinary scene. I’d already freed myself from Britain’s gastro-habits, swapping belly-busting culinary traits for the more chilled-out approach of southern Europe. Many years ago, my stomach had been tamed from the monster it had become – an insatiable beast whose incessant singing of ‘feed me now’ resulted in a Sunday breakfast that required two hands to carry. It was piled so high with food that my nephew would relish playing a game of trying to guess how many individual ingredients there were on my plate. Ten was average.
They say travel changes you, and it does … in all sorts of ways. Eating habits is just one of them.
Because of work, Andy and I never ate our evening meal early, so moving to a Spanish island where the local trend was not to eat before 20.30 was more of a continuation. What did change was the approach to eating. Over the years, the amount of food on our plates diminished, as did what was on them. Meals became lighter, featuring more fish and seafood. Eating out, we grew to prefer eating a range of smaller dishes rather than plates piled high. Our diet became more Mediterranean than Manchester, and we felt better for it. Not that we spotted it at the time, it was only when we reverted to the ‘old ways’ (usually on trips back to Britain) that we noticed how heavy, sluggish, and uncomfortable the likes of a roast dinner would leave us. Eventually, the idea of carveries, all-you-can-eat buffets, and hearty breakfasts became a turn-off.
Nowadays, I avoid them all … except for the temptation of a traditional British Christmas dinner and stuffing my face with the leftovers midway through an appropriately escapist Christmas Day film – usually Bond (this year it was Skyfall). The trouble is, its flavours are irresistible, laced as they are with the seductive aroma of nostalgic warm and joyous Christmases past.
However, this festive season I finally reached the painful conclusion that the days of tucking into a hillside of leftovers barely a couple of hours after gorging on a trad Christmas dinner are no longer fun. It is a habit which needs binned along with the carcass currently occupying a third of the fridge, a carcass on which there is still a criminal amount of meat.
Next year we’ll have fish of some sort. The roast potatoes can stay. Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without roasties.