The next in my true Christmas stories:
The baker, the drunks and their turkeys
Large chickens or the Christmas goose were no doubt on the festive menu before turkeys became so available and so cheap. When I was young, like most families we only had a small cooker – perfect for everyday life in those days when portions were smaller and people ate less. However, the smaller cooker had a smaller oven, so cooking a large bird was impossible. In a tradition going back centuries, people would prepare their birds, put them in the pans with whatever stuffing and additions they preferred, and carry the pan and raw fowl round to the baker who would have his bread ovens fired up and ready, and in they would go, with some sort of identifying marker.
This still happened when I was a small child living in Cambridge; dad would take the bird to Maskell’s the baker’s – and he must have taken it on his bike because we had no car, and he would be there with all the other husbands, exchanging seasonal greetings, instructing the baker and relinquishing the bird. Maskell’s was on Victoria Road, just by the Portland Arms, the pub where Don grew up so it was very familiar to him, as was the Maskell family.
Later, and a little before the time for the collection of the turkey/goose/large chicken, the men would return and meet, not at the door of the bake-house, but at a local pub, open Christmas lunch-time (just as ours is in our village) Don met his friends in the New Spring, his local, and after a pint or two (more for some, but Don would pace himself!) they would cross the road and go to the baker’s to reclaim their Christmas dinner.
You can imagine the scene, a crowd of merry drunks, many wearing Christmas gifts, home knitted sweaters, hats, mitts or scarves, no doubt singing hearty carols, trying to remember which was their turkey as Mr Maskell pulled out glistening bird after glistening bird… And then to transport it home, red-hot, and with a jug of fat and gravy… Ours always arrived safely!