The 12 days of Christmas 1: Mystery Meat

Merry Christmas! I’d like to clarify right from the beginning that I am not, I repeat not, promising to do twelve of these posts. I’ve learnt from previous years not to hang that kind of millstone around my own neck again – I have sleep to catch up on, thank you very much, and I don’t fancy being lambasted by Archers fans again. But in the spirit of Christmas, I’ve decided to generously gift my hordes of fans just one cartoon. Or maybe two or three, if you ask really nicely… Merry Christmas. 

This year, I’ve been trying to eat less meat. I’m some way off going full veggie – I just don’t have the willpower – but I’ve been leaning more towards pulses than poultry. The main motivation for this is environmental; like many, I’ve been experiencing a growing sense of guilt and existential dread, thanks to all those videos of starving polar bears, forest fires, dwindling wildlife populations and, most crushingly of all, David Attenborough’s deep disappointment in humanity as a species.

Despite all this, I’m letting my half-hearted ethics fall by the wayside for a couple of weeks, Pam-from-Gavin-and-Stacey style. After all, Christmas is not a time for thinking about your fellow creatures. In fact, in the Lyster household, Christmas is mainly a time for eating your fellow creatures in copious quantities. Our house is full of meat. It’s a carnivore’s paradise. There’s no room for beer in the fridge because it’s full of bacon and sausages. I’m reliably informed that the freezer contains ‘the best part of a deer’. And then there’s the centrepiece of our Christmas dinner.

I’m a fan of turkey. I don’t understand the complaint that it’s a dry, flavourless version of chicken – I think it’s succulent and delicious. Nothing makes me happier than living exclusively off turkey sandwiches in the week between Christmas and New Year. My parents, on the other hand, are somewhat indifferent to this fine fowl, so our Christmas dinners are often a touch unconventional. In the past there’s been goose, venison, beef wellington, and on one memorable occasion, a raised game pie.

Nearly all of these meaty masterpieces are the doing of my father, who likes to channel the banqueting spirit of Henry VIII. And this year, Dad has surpassed himself. Right now, filling the entire oven, mid-way through its six-hour roasting time, is a terrifying creation that has become known as The Beast. It’s a multi-bird monstrosity: a turkey, stuffed with a duck, a chicken, several pheasants and a pigeon. It’s the size of a house. It weighs as much as a toddler. Those are going to be some sandwiches…

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