Every Christmas my father goes in search of the ultimate turkey.
Not one doing the backstroke in gravy, being strong-armed by an army of chipolatas but a stand-alone bird of such uproarious quality that ‘Zadok the Priest’ starts up with the chewing.
It has been an escalation leading to ever more obsessive behaviour every yuletide. When Waitrose magazine runs a Turkey Addicts questionnaire he will say ‘yes’ to more than half the questions, including, ‘Do you often wake up in an unfamiliar place having been searching for the perfect bird?’
In 2008 he gained an £80 speeding fine hastening one back to optimum refrigeration temperatures- no mean feat when carving up a trail of 90 year old Sunday drivers on the Sussex Coast (pun intended).
This year he sourced a turkey that cost more than 100 good English pounds. She was called Caroline and came with a birth certificate and a brochure of her Christmas Lunch accompaniment preferences (‘Don’t serve me with cabbage; it’s malodorous.’)
My father received regular updates about her progress until she was slaughtered. It was like adopting a Siberian tiger, only in reverse.
As with all addictive behaviours it takes it tolls on the loved ones. The tense atmosphere as the hot meaty smell starts to creep from the oven. The sneaky peak under the tin foil for signs of dry spells.
The fear of Overcooked Meat Disappointment.
Caroline fared well this year. She clung onto the moisture in her loins like a mature women determined to enjoy an active sex life, overcoming the unpromising handicaps of her considerable bulk and the length of time she spent waiting in the wings pending trimming negotiations between chef and family members.
Perversely, this did not work in favour of the Christmas guests. Impressed and relieved by her survival instincts my father began to plan fresh adventures for her in soup and curries.
So that despite the presence in the kitchen on Boxing Day of a cold poultry the size of Milton Keynes, left-over slices were jealously guarded; it’s not often that I feel like a child during the blitz dodging the adults to try to steal protein for a wounded German soldier.
The question now is whether Caroline’s kin will be ear-marked for next year or if the crazy quest for a Better Bird will begin anew.
Wise bets are on Her Majesty’s best swan.