Sue Arnold: Stuffed full of caviar, truffles and foie gras

'That I have put on half a stone in the last four days in no way diminishes the feeling of sheer contentment'

Share

My instructions this year were explicit. Nothing durable, I said. No stacking lacquer Japanese boxes, no tea cosies, no singing doormats, no pottery toast-racks shaped like pigs. This Christmas all I want are things I can eat, drink or put in my bath.

My instructions this year were explicit. Nothing durable, I said. No stacking lacquer Japanese boxes, no tea cosies, no singing doormats, no pottery toast-racks shaped like pigs. This Christmas all I want are things I can eat, drink or put in my bath.

What a result! If only I had thought of this years ago, I would have been spared the annual influx of all those fluffy slippers, executive toys, joke ash-trays and complicated electrical gadgets for making my own pasta, yoghurt, ice-cream or, even – God help us – sun-dried tomatoes. Life is too short to sun-dry a tomato. I don't even like sun-dried tomatoes, but if I did, there's a perfectly good supermarket across the road that is open between 8.30am and 9pm every day and that dispenses 11 different varieties. No, I am not looking a gift horse in the mouth, I'm tethering it to a tree and bashing its brains out with a sledgehammer.

This year it was different, and the fact that I have put on half a stone in the last four days in no way diminishes the feeling of sheer contentment engendered by the spectacular array of edible luxuries I received last Tuesday. Marrons glacés, Belgian white chocolates stuffed with champagne truffles and genuine hand-made rosewater flavoured Turkish delight from Istanbul.

I was about to remonstrate with the person who had presented me with a porcelain duck wearing a blue bonnet – which definitely failed the non-durables-only criterion – until I realised that the duck was actually a plate and in the middle of the plate was a large jar of foie gras, and before you write furious letters to tell me how cruel it is to stuff ducks with maize in order to engorge their livers, let me tell you about a recent visit that I made to a foie gras farm in Périgord to witness this allegedly cruel practice.

It was run by two old women, with gingham headscarves and calico aprons who put on their boots and went out into the farmyard at four o'clock and called all the ducks by name for their supper. From every direction the ducks came racing to the barn, where one of the old women held a duck between her knees while the other opened its beak and dropped a ladleful of maize down its throat. Like taking medicine really. Afterwards, perfectly content, the duck then waddled away, a little unsteadily to be sure, because an engorged liver does rather affect one's gait, but not in the least unhappy.

So that's the marrons glacés, champagne truffles and foie gras, but the best was yet to come. From the daughter who works in Azerbaijan on the shores of the Caspian Sea I received three large sealed jars of finest Beluga caviar that, a passing sybarite assured me, would cost at least £300 a piece in London, always supposing that I could find any in London. Sturgeon are unfortunately in desperately short supply these days. Apart from Iran, there's a moratorium on caviar in all the countries abutting the Caspian. So where did my daughter find it? Oh, somewhere in Baku market, she said vaguely.

It isn't everyday, or even every Christmas Day, that you are given a kilo of Beluga caviar, so I resisted the temptation to prise open the nearest lid, stick in a large spoon and scoff the lot immediately. We are going to do this properly, I said hunting in the kitchen cupboard for buckwheat flour to make proper blini.

While the mixture was proving in a warm place, I made hard-boiled eggs and chopped the whites and yolks separately just like Fanny Craddock used to do on television. In more small dishes I put chopped onion and sour cream, warmed a dish for the blini and filled a bowl with ice cubes on which to float the jars of black gold; two bottles of ice-cold vodka completed the picnic. Was it good? Do birds fly?

Lubricated with vodka, my caviar provider revealed that she now has a black-market source in Baku who will supply her with caviar whenever she wants it. The French Embassy there has a standing order for 18 kilos a week. I think I could get used to the hedonistic life. Quick someone, get me some asses milk – I want a bath.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Developer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a world leader ...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

£23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: the SNP’s ‘fundamental problem’, says Corbyn, is that too many people support it

John Rentoul
An investor looks at an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Shanghai  

China has exposed the fatal flaws in our liberal economic order

Ann Pettifor
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future