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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.

Written by Mark Lissaman — December 19, 2014

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