When is a treat a real treat?

by Simone Sekers

WE had our Christmas feast well on into the New Year, for various complicated reasons. It was hard work waiting for it, as we had splashed out on a free range goose from my favourite poultry supplier and we knew how good it was going to be. There it was in the freezer, taking up a huge amount of space and just begging to be taken out and roasted.

j4e4729Eventually the great day came and our friends arrived on the doorstep so bang on time that it was clear their mouths were watering too. We had been to Angel Cottage Organic’s farm at Fifehead Neville to collect it, picking our way down the lanes, past Plumber Manor and on, turning left down a long track and there, amongst the beautiful new buildings, full of Oxford Sandy and Black pigs, and the long-legged chickens that have made roast chicken a thing to celebrate again, we met our goose. I wrote a cheque that made my eyes water. Back home I had an email from a friend, ‘Lidl’s frozen geese are in stock’, she wrote ‘ go quick or they’ll sell out’. I told her what I’d paid for mine and we decided to compare the qualities of both when both had been eaten. When the last drop of goose soup had been enjoyed, and I had counted out four jam-jars of goose dripping, and a large preserving jar of the rendered fat (the former has more flavour by miles, but doesn’t keep as long), we decided on the winner. My friend’s goose hadn’t yielded anything like as much largesse, and the giblets were non-existant. My goose had had such a deliciously healthy liver that we had goose-liver pate as well. Yes, mine cost far more than hers, but then we’d had the joy of going to the farm itself to pick up a bird that had not long before been striding around that beautiful piece of Dorset countryside. And mine was a treat, a once a year special Christmas treat. Treats shouldn’t be cheap to my mind.

I feel the same about the five-litre can of olive oil I have just collected from my Italian friend in Shaftesbury. As a cookery writer of long experience I trusted her when she offered me my first can. After all, the pedigree was impeccable –what could be better than the oil from one small farm in Tuscany? Again I wrote an eye-watering cheque and found myself buying a special bottle to put it in, so that it could sit decoratively on the table to be drizzled selectively on things that were really worth it’s flavour. Again, this is treat stuff. Everyday oil is the one I buy from the supermarket, at the cheapest price I can find – and as the last olive harvest was a disaster this won’t be as cheap as it has been. I suppose now’s the time to turn to our home-produced rapeseed oil, but I have to admit I’m not as keen on it as I should be, considering its provenance.

When times are hard we all have to cut back, and treats are smaller and less frequent. All the same, I’d rather spend my money on a goose than a Christmas tree that professes not to drop its needles. What’s a bit of vacuuming compared to a fridge full of lovely goose dripping?