Earlier this month Mark meditated on food and drink in Advent. Here, we get to Christmas week....
Now we’re in the thick of it, and if fortune is smiling then the weather is starting to get frosty. So much the better for those thick glutinous slowly cooked dishes. Time to attack that section of your cellar dedicated to the Rhone. A rolled rib of beef cooked in beer, served with baked potatoes, savoy cabbage and the rich uplifting embrace of mature Syrah. A slow cooked. A heart stopping belly of organic pork, mash, broccoli, carrots and a fresh young fruity Gigondas.
Suddenly, before you know it, He’s here. If you’ve been good.
Then stockings dispatched you’re eating ham and drinking Champagne. The kitchen is a gentle buzz of energy. Somebody suggests a gin and tonic to keep spirits high. The clink of the ice almost as refreshing as the bite of the tonic is sharpening. Chin Chin. Guests arrive, a cocktail? Perhaps two.
Christmas lunch. A turkey: literally (and in many cases figuratively too). I half heartedly have some claret open but it’s fighting against the tide. The meal needs Burgundy and it’s new world allies, but even then it’s a losing battle on the wine front. There’s simply too much food. Too much distraction. Too much fun. Better to wait, to bide time.
Later, escaping from the heat of the fire and 007, a crisp lager recharges and uplifts. If one is good then two will be better. If two is better then three…
Boxing day. Now we’re talking. I carried out an informal survey once and from a gastronomy perspective Boxing Day beats Christmas day hands down. It’s more relaxed, there’s less effort. There’s usually a walk involved which has the dual benefits of stimulating the appetite and a visit to a pub.
Then there is one of the best food wine combinations I know of. Namely, cold cuts of meat with leftovers eaten with the help of bottles and bottles of Beaujolais. Heaven. Good enough to allow you to cope with the inevitable parlour games.
Merry Christmas everyone.
So its that time of year again where we are allowed to dream. Allowed to believe in made up friends. Allowed to create magical memories for our young children. Allowed slacken off a bit at work (we’ll we’re not, but you are). Allowed to be festive.
Crucially though for some of us it is that time of year where you are allowed to eat, and more importantly, allowed to drink whatever you want. You can take your Wrath, your Envy and perhaps a couple of the others. For me, and I suspect a good many others, Gluttony if not quite winning gold certainly gets a podium place and this is the time of year when that dark sinful id gets allowed out of the basement (where the treadmill is kept) and into the dining room.
It starts gently enough, a cheeky beer (Adnams bitter or those cute little cans of lager) to be enjoyed while the children have their supper. Then after the little darlings have finally gone to bed perhaps something to bring on the festive spirit. Nothing too serious, a glass of Picapoul and a crisp or two, or if it’s later in the week a crisp dry sherry from one of those little half bottles and a handful of salted almonds. Something to stimulate the mind and the appetite as supper is prepared.
Knowing that the true feasting is still some way off lighter meals are called for during the first half of December. A coq au vin is pleasingly light on the wallet, and since it's not red meat, well it must be good for you right? It also helps to use up the opened bottles of wine that are increasingly appearing around the kitchen for some reason.
Taking things a step further a simple bean stew cooked up with just the merest whiff of bacon acts as a useful foil to those random bottles of Chianti of dubious provenance that you’ve not been quite sure what to do with. Both the wine and the pulses share the same Tuscan spiritual home and if the wine turns out to be a little more *cough* “robust”, than desired then you can chalk it up to agricultural charm and pretend that you are on holiday.
For the fish lover what safer time than Advent to enjoy mussels at home? Even better you are spoilt for choice on the drinks front. Cider, beer, or a crisp white from the Loire all working wonderfully. The huge, welcoming, bowl of shells simply begging to be enjoyed with a gluttonous passion. Whatever you are drinking with it, it should be glugged not sipped. The only downside is that cooking the pile of frites at home is a pain. Time to engage our old friend Sloth and substitute for a fluffy white stick of French bread. All the better to soak up the broth with anyway.
As the month starts to pass the tempo can afford to increase. Until the end of term the family breakfast remains that most presbyterian of dishes, porridge. The tone in our house has however been offset by the addition of brown sugar, accompanied thanks to Spotify by the Rolling Stone’s “Brown Sugar” and much dancing around the kitchen. I worry about the lyrics, and the cost of the subsequent therapy sessions when my kids start to listen to them.
Now we’re in the thick of it, and if fortune is smiling then the weather is starting to get frosty. So much the better for those thick glutinous slowly cooked dishes. Time to attack that section of your cellar dedicated to the Rhone. A rolled rib of beef cooked in beer, served with baked potatoes, savoy cabbage and the rich uplifting embrace of mature Syrah. A slow cooked. A heart stopping belly of pork, mash, broccoli, carrots and a fresh young fruity Gigondas.
So that was Advent. Roll on Christmas.
Whilst we're not members of the 'Christmas is all about the children' brigade (we're rather partial to a mince pie, a ginger wine and a carol or two ourselves) we do appreciate that the childhood magic of Christmas is rather special. Especially the stocking.
And the glittering presents under the tree. (Less so the boring adult conversation at the table and being dragged out for a brisk walk.)
So Arthur and Henry have put their heads together with a few eco, ethical ideas for the little ankle biters/darlings (delete as appropriate).
Crafts go down well, and Fair and Funky has some good choices
Paper chain kit £3, Christmas printing blocks £1.50 each
Dress the little blighters in Frugi's scrumptious organic cotton clothes
PJ's£26, Fleece £32
This bus, £49, from fair trade specialists Traidcraft would be a perfect present from an indulgent auntie, uncle or grandparent. (There's also a fire engine and a farmyard.)
Take them on a journey with a world atlas, £9.99 from Amnesty
Give them classic Christmas books, The Dark is Rising & The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Order online at The Hive and they'll be delivered to your local bookshop who will also get a percentage of the sale.
They may never eat Turkish Delight again though.
It's also worth checking out Jen Gale's delightful blog My Make Do and Mend Year for inspiration and suggestions of things to do, make and give that don't involved buying new things.
(We're all for Reduce, Reuse, Recyle, though we do think men need a good new shirt every now and then. One that will last.)
Henry hears that buying presents for men can be tricky but really he doesn't see what the fuss is all about. All of these would go down very well in his stocking.
A perfect organic cotton shirt...
...in a classic blue, £65
...with a funky trim, £75
...in a dashing dot, £75
Cufflinks set off a shirt with style.
All those gadgets deserve to be protected...
A scarf will keep him toasty and warm...
Wondering what to get the women in your life for Christmas? Arthur's been having a bit of a think....
A handspun, handwoven shawl, cashmere £85, (wool £35) from Panchachuli.
Elvis & Kresse upcycled fire-hose tablet (£70) or laptop (£80) case.
Caipora Jewellery - this rubber cat ring is £25 and perfect for a cat lover, necklace £30. And plenty of other styles to choose from, all handmade from a variety of sustainable materials.
Scented candles in antique teacups. Handmade in London with soy wax. From £25 from Eco Antique Teacup Candles
Organic beauty gift set. £27 from Odylique.
15% off pink shirts today, Gaudete Sunday, with code ADVENTPINK.
And now, for your delight and delectation, Erasure....
Ah, happy memories. Did anyone ever make one?
As a child you live in a cashless society. Cashless for you that is. Christmas, along with one’s birthday are pretty much the only two events in the year where you have a decent chance of getting a substantial something that you want. It is no surprise then that for a child, presents are the focus of Christmas.
As an adult you live in a different place. Once you are beyond a subsistence level of income you get to buy things when you want. Oh sure, there are a huge number of things you would like to buy but can’t (or shouldn’t) but as an adult we *do* get to buy things for ourselves throughout the year.
Good isn’t it.
Where then do presents fit into our lives? Specifically given that I’m writing this in December where do Christmas presents fit in? We have left behind the gift as a means of redistributing wealth as children. As adults gift giving to each other is shamefully wasteful as a mechanism, with £billions wasted each year in unwanted gifts.
Yes as a society we persist in guessing what somebody else would want rather than in simply giving money to them. Why? Because we are human and not simply cogs in a machine. We know that many gifts may be wasted but we dream of the perfect gift that lights up the recipients face with a look of surprised wonderment. We dream of making the recipient a better happier person. We create a common bond by a shared good taste in literature, fashion, music, food.
We give gifts, not money, to cement a friendship in a way that money never can.
...and that is why Arthur & Henry shirts make the perfect gift. A shared good taste not only in fashion, but in the statement of shared ethics.
Imagine if you will a boxing ring. On the one side, conventionally grown cotton: big, domineering with massive corporate sponsorship and support from governments. On the other, organic cotton: small, the underdog. What are they fighting for? The planet.
And guess what, the underdog of Organic Cotton beats the beast of Conventional Cotton hands down, according to a new report from Textile Exchange.
The life cycle assessment study was based on data from producer groups located in the top five countries of organic cotton cultivation; India, China, Turkey, Tanzania and the United States which account for 97% of global organic cotton production.
They found that, compared with conventional cotton, organic cotton had:
46% reduced global warming potential
70% less acidification potential
26% reduced eutrophication potential (soil erosion)
91% reduced blue water consumption
62% reduced primary energy demand
So that's a stonking win for organic cotton then. Wear your Arthur & Henry shirt with pride.
Arthur & Henry are rip roaringly pleased to be popping up next week at Monsieur London. But how did this come about? Valentin Goux, one of the monsieurs, explains.
It’s all about values isn’t it?
A few months ago, we opened our first store in the Royal Opera Arcade. A big step forward for a young brand like us. We spent two weeks painting, refurbishing, and cleaning the place before the grand opening.
Then, we bought two mannequins, created a nice display, and welcomed our first clients. But something was missing, and we did not know exactly what it was.
Then we eventually found out: the mannequins were naked. And even with their beautiful wood and our awesome accessories
, it was odd.
So we started to look for someone who could dress them. A shirt brand who would fit into our quality oriented atmosphere. One who would share our values of sustainable fashion, of promoting quality and consuming less but better. All the things that we stand for… It had to be Arthur & Henry!
To start with, their shirts
are well fitted, the designs are nice, and on top of that, it’s all ethically produced.
They answered very positively, and we will be delighted to host this wonderful and seasonal event from the 2nd to the 7th of December. We certainly hope to see many of you at the grand opening night, Tuesday the 2nd from 6pm.
As we are extremely French, there will be wine.