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Christmas at our house meant turkey. A big turkey, with all the trimmings: sage and onion and chestnut stuffing, bread sauce, giblet gravy, chipolatas, roast potatoes and parsnips, cranberry sauce, peas and Brussels sprouts.

And one o’clock in the afternoon was the time to eat it.

Mother would be up with the larks to get it ready for the oven. And throughout the morning the children would traipse in and out of the kitchen asking if they could have a drumstick, and could they lick this bowl, and were we going to have ice cream and jelly as well as pudding, and how many threepences did she put in? And why was the kitchen so hot, Aunty Em?

Around eleven those who had been to church began arriving. And those who had been elsewhere drained their Alka Seltzers and asked would anyone like a sherry before lunch? Sometimes, they remembered to take a restorative glass to the kitchen, which they thought was damn’ hot today, Em.

Mother also carved our turkey. Visitors used to think it odd that the man of the house didn’t carve, but the family all knew what happened to any roast that Dad got his knife into.

Of course, everyone wanted the breast. All the children wanted a drumstick each; Uncle Ernest wasn’t fussy: “ just a couple of legs, Em.” Which he then proceeded to eat, one in each hand, his napkin tucked into his collar. And nobody wanted the dark meat.

The older girls, by now “too refained” to fight the smalls for a leg, would ask how the gravy was made and, on being told, would squeal and wrinkle their noses in disgust at the mere thought of eating innards.

Plates would be passed up the table with requests for “just a little more, please.” (Funny how no one minded the dark meat for seconds…) And when the huge bird had been reduced to pieces that would fit on a small saucer, and the big Victorian tureen held only three or four cold peas, lonely in the bottom, and everyone had eaten enough pudding to be sure of getting at least one silver threepence we all dragged ourselves from the table.

Mother delegated the washing-up to two or three older children who could be trusted with the best crockery, tactfully ignoring Uncle Ernest’s bluff offers to “knock these over in a shake, Em. Learned to do dishes in the army, dontcha know.”

With pre-lunch sherries and the better part of a bottle of Macon and a couple of ports in him, I rather think Mother thought he would “knock them over in a shake.”

We never ate turkey throughout the year. Only at Christmas.



Author: dinahmow

A New Zealander, currently living in tropical Queensland,Australia (with 2 cats and one Main Man).Old enough to remember George VI, white tennis balls and life-before-television.You want more? Read the blog!

8 thoughts on “TALKING TURKEY

  1. Auntie Em! For a second I thought you were back in Kansas, Dianahmow. And since you don’t have Thanksgiving Down Under I was convinced ~ ’til I saw it was Christmas. Fact or fiction it was still a delightful picture portrait. Especially the family part (sigh…).


  2. I wrote this a few years ago for a friend’s husband who was grizzling that she wouldn’t cook a turkey in 40-something degrees.It was all a bit of a spoof;I mailed it to him anonymously, but he said, right off,”This is from bloody Dinah, isn’t it!”
    And it appeared in a slim anthology of (my then ) local writing group.Probably should have acknowledged them, but copyright remains with me so didn’t give BSWG the nod!


  3. What a wonderful picture of your family’s past Christmas dinners. In our house, my husband does not carve the turkey either, I do. I just happened to be better with the carving/slicing knife. Thanks for sharing.


  4. Oh joy!!
    I can comment again!
    Da peeps here is having ham dis year. Too bad for us, but we’ll get our Krissmush turkey wiff giblets inna can.


  5. What a great holiday dinner description! The more ‘colorful’ the family times, the better. I wonder why we don’t have turkey more often? (Other than the food coma it induces).

    Thanks for visiting my blog.


  6. Once a year really?
    The trytophanic paralysation from the ‘Turkish Delight’ is almost as much fun as licking Cane Toads!
    I still have to fight for a leg…and I love eating turkey salad sandwiches all week!


  7. “Not minding the dark meet for seconds” caught my attention. We are all the same in our house. O.K. I’ll have dark if I have to.

    Auntie Em…I thought as Andrea did. There’s no place like home. Especially when it’s a hot kitchen at Christmas time.


  8. Thanks for your comments, folks.I’m pleased I struck a chord.
    I suppose everyone realises that the 40 degrees is, for us, Celsius? And that is HOT, especially if you’re cooking, too!One Christmas, I got up at 3.30am and cooked food to be eaten cold later in the day.


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