The economy may be oh-so-slowly getting itself back on a more even keel, but – one way or another – most of us will be feeling the pinch this Christmas even more than the last. It's ingrained in our national conscious that we must splurge at this time of year; the show is all and to hell with the consequences until Jan 2. With the feasting starting at least two weeks before the Big Day and on for another week afterwards, it's a trial for anyone's stomach and wallet.
The most peculiar thing of all – if you stop to consider – is the concentration of wasted and mostly unappreciated effort for this one lone day. There must be relatives we don't see from one year-end to the next; bowls full of nuts no-one eats because no-one can find the nutcracker; a liqueur cabinet groaning with sticky drinks that you don't really need on top of all the rich food.
Then there's the Meal. There must be turkey. It's the law. Of course you get those curious rebels who swear they prefer goose or a rib of beef to go with the compulsory platters of roast potatoes, root vegetables and the sprouts that are left unloved and rapidly cooling, but the majority of us will once again go for the turkey. The problem is, this year, can we afford to?
Casting around online for major stockists and producers, you'd be hard-pushed to justify it. Should you prefer – and who would not – an all-dancing, all-singing, free-ranging cosseted bird, prices start around the £65 mark. Sixty-Five Pounds. For a turkey that feeds 4 people. A decent-sized one roars up to around £80. It's enough to drive you straight to the nearest supermarket freezer and damn the ethics. The slightly cheaper turkey crown is sadly denuded of the only jewels it possesses – the succulent legs.
So what to do this Christmas? Do we blanch and shell out, because come hell or high water, there must be turkey or do we get a bit creative? Seek out something a touch unusual – haunch of venison, a magnificent crackling leg of pork, a dainty dish of partridge for twoâ€¦ What's your feast going to be?