WITH THE festive season looming on the horizon, many men are no doubt already beginning to get nervous about cutting up the huge joints of meat traditionally laid before the family. There can be few experiences so undermining to the patriarchal ego than being asked to carve when you are not competent with a knife and do not know your way around a carcass.

As Philip Franks remarks in his introduction to an instructional video on the subject, carving is one of those social skills, like ballroom dancing or fixing blown fuses, that men are magically supposed to acquire. Mr Franks is best known for his performance as Charlie in The Darling Buds of May so, watching him learning to carve one cannot help but wonder why Ma Larkin is not on hand to assist the poor lad.

Instead, a number of experts demonstrate how to deal with different cuts and of various kinds of meat, including a particularly useful guide to jointing a chicken which Mr Franks describes, with a grimace to the camera, as 'a ghastly parody of the Generation Game'.

Although the Gastropod reckons you would be better off putting the money towards a properly sharp knife, The Complete Carver may reassure the nervous poultry surgeon before he attempts to carve the Christmas turkey. The video can be acquired by sending a cheque for pounds 10.49, made out to Luther Pendragon, to: Pendragon Productions, 21 Whitefriars Street, London EC4Y SJJ.

ALWAYS on the look out for new cuisines to sample, the Gastropod is grateful to Ann Kaye, a reader from east London, for drawing his attention to the hitherto untasted specialities of Lapland. Apart from Spruce Parfait and Moose's Nose, one of the most intriguing suggestions in a cookery book called Lappi A La Carte is for Martti Autti's Salmon.

Evidently Martti is a DIY enthusiast, since the instructions for his salmon dish begin with 'cut down a birch tree', and describe how to construct a rack on which to cook the salmon. 'Where do I find the birch tree?' asks Ms Kaye and there is no easy answer. You would think ready-made birch cooking racks would be on sale at Ikea, but apparently not.

The Gastropod is pleased to announce, however, that devotees of such cuisine can bone up on it at a Lapland Festival at the Mayfair Inter-Continental Hotel, London, throughout December.

THERE are no moose depicted in a new collection of wittily observed culinary cartoons by Enzo Appicella, but plenty of ravening beasts including, most gratifyingly, a monstrous snail doing battle with a murderous chef. Mouthfool (Grub Street, pounds 5.99) is published to celebrate 30 years of the Italian designer's involvement in the food business although, as George Melly remarks in his introduction, 'the fact that Appicella is also a restaurateur is interesting but irrelevant'.

ON Monday from 5.30pm, Bibendum, the wine merchant, is hosting a charitable tasting on behalf of Sane (Schizophrenia - A National Emergency) in the atrium of Chelsea Harbour, west London. Tickets, which can be bought at the door, cost pounds 10. There will be 43 wines on offer and, should you buy, 10 per cent of sales will be donated to the charity.

THE Gastropod's quaffing pal, Michael Jackson, wants readers to visit the Ole Ale Festival this weekend at the White Horse in Parson's Green, west London. An astonishing 55 cask-conditioned old ales, porters, stouts and barley wines, from Adnams' Tally- Ho to Uley's Pigor Mortis, will be available. The 1993 edition - on draught - of the Thanksgiving-to-New Year spiced Special Ale from the Anchor Steam Brewery, of San Francisco, will also be there. Our man Jackson, the beer hunter, says it is 'malty, toasty and warming'.