Stuff the Turkey

Written by Simon Renfrew

From Dover to the Hebridies, try as you may, it’s hard to escape the traditional British Christmas. If steroid raised fowl, gaudy hand knitted jumpers and cremated pudding are your bag, then great. But make a move to the Southern Dordogne and, although you’ll miss out on the xmas morning trip to the pub, you can at least make the day your own.

Most years, the weather in late December is pretty good (turning miserable in the second half of January for two or three weeks), so hardier (and seriously untraditional) souls can set up their BBQs and play Australian Masterchef. Or you can head off to one of the many open air markets for fresh fish, prawns, scallops and, of course, oysters. In France, it’s a particularly dire time of year for millions of these happy little bi-valves, most of which come from the Atlantic coast and are sitting on beds of crushed ice within a few hours of being brought ashore. But be warned – fresh Christmas seafood can be seriously expensive, so fill the kids up with chocolate and cake and keep what fish you can afford for yourself.

Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve is still a big thing in rural France and the main meal follows, winding up at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning. Presumably Santa whizzes around the rest of the world first, arriving here only an hour or so before breakfast.  But if the prospect of eating when you should be fast asleep, then waiting 12 hours from the end of a 6 course feast ‘till the Queen is just too damn foreign for you, fear not.  There are enterprising souls who regularly fetch transit loads of your pre ordered goodies from Tesco et al to most nearby bastides, so for just a 20% premium on UK prices, you needn’t miss a thing. It’s not going to do much for your carbon footprint, but you can always blame Intermarche for not understanding the significance of mince pies. And if you have to import crackers, for God’s sake avoid the paper hats – your fellow rosbifs thank you for your understanding.

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