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'
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The Independent Online

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.

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