/ Food & Drink

Why only eat turkeys at Christmas?

Roast turkey in oven

Ah, the good old Christmas turkey. Just one could feed an army. But with many of us overcooking them into frazzled dry hunks of flesh today, why don’t more of us banish the turkey and tuck into something else?

Why do we eat turkeys at Christmas? Because it tastes so good, or is it all down to tradition? How about neither?

I’ll briefly run down the history of Britain’s Christmas turkey to bring you up to speed. Traditionally we’ve always eaten goose in the UK, not turkey. And why not – we’d get some lovely goose fat for our roast tatties.

It wasn’t until the 16th century that eating turkey started to become popular, when Spaniards imported them from America. Henry VIII was apparently the first English king to enjoy the big-breasted bird, but Edward VII made it a little more fashionable to eat them at Christmas.

Still, the turkey was seen as a luxury right up until the 1950s, where the upper classes boasted its exoticism and high price tag. Now, however, it seems to be as common as muck.

In fact, each Chrimbo Britons eat 10 million turkeys (between them, that is, not each) and according to the British Turkey Information Service (yes, there is such a service) Christmas isn’t Christmas for 87% of Brits without a traditional roast turkey. Though, with around 23 million households in the UK, those 10 million turkeys are going to be stretched a little thin if nearly nine in ten Britons want one.

Time for something different?

So we’ve been eating Xmas turkeys for a few hundred years, and the birds themselves have been around for 10 million more years (there are fossils to prove it), isn’t it time to move on?

Can’t we give these gobbling fowls a break? Why not eat a goose, a duck, beef, or lamb? Or why not put more effort into the vegetarian option, rather than making a boring but roast?

If we take a glance around the rest of the world, they’re scoffing much more interesting things. In Norway, Sweden, Poland and Austria fish is the Xmas food of choice. In Germany it’s often game, like wild boar, that makes its way onto the menu.

In Italy, Christmas dinner lasts for more than four hours, with most families stuffing themselves with seven or more courses. And it’s worth giving the Czech Republic a mention, not for their eating habits, but for their superstition. They must have an even number of people around the Christmas table, otherwise the person without a partner will die in the next year. Cheery.

So come on, don’t you think we should discard a few of our traditions and try something new? Will turkey be the centrepiece for your Christmas dinner or are you going to be more adventurous this year?

Did you tuck into turkey this Christmas?

Yes, I love it (57%, 87 Votes)

No, I had something else (37%, 57 Votes)

I don't bother with Christmas dinner (6%, 9 Votes)

Total Voters: 153

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Pickle says:
26 December 2010

I think turkey is overrated – there’s many more realy tasty meats about.

We cooked rib of beef – it gave me an excuse to try and cook a different cut of meat as a treat. Glad I did – it was delicious and didn’t miss turkey at all, but did have to do some pigs in blankets! Hope everyone else enjoyed their Christmas lunch (and the leftovers today)!

I always do turkey, plus a small loin of pork, stuffing balls, pigs in blankets, roast spuds, Yorkshire puds, carrots, sprouts and gravy made from the giblets stock. Can’t beat it! Today all I needed was a tray of oven chips and a jar of pickled onions to go with the meat. And there’s another meal on the bird for tomorrow before I make soup. We have turkey on Easter Sunday too.

Oven Chips??????? With a Turkey Dinner?????

Well, I’m astounded at that combination, but who am I to moan given that I did not have turkey but instead cooked Rainbow Trout with almonds, which I served with Brussels Sprouts (from the allotment), Purple Sprouting Broccoli (from my bosses allotment), new potatoes (from the Co-Op) and chestnuts (from Waitrose).

Each to their own.

I think Patrick’s point about the vegetarian option deserves some thought: we are all aware (or if we’re not I don’t know how some people have escaped!) of the Government’s health campaigns to get us to eat more vegetables and fruit and to reduce obesity. Turkey and other poultry is certainly far healthier than red meat, but given that it is now “normal” for the average family to eat meat in some form or another at least twice each day (according to the Soil Association) all year round, having a Christmas feast involving any meat is no longer the exception to the norm that it used to be for most households. Perhaps we should try NOT having any meat at Christmas, so that it becomes a “special” meal again, and a step towards a healthier nation on the way?


BobP says:
15 January 2011

We had Turkey this year owing to our Son & Daughter in law coming from Spain for Christmas & there preference was Turkey . But to us it is rather dry , Not a patch on fresh Goose of which we have most years although it has to be cut in half with one part frozen for a later meal . Goose has always been used for Christmas day since I was a child with my Grandparents present & they where years to be remembered . It need not be full of fat as most people think if the final part of cooking is done on a rack with the fat drained off regularly . Just lovely & moist if eaten with lot of green vegetables , Roast potatoes with gravy . We also love the dripping used sparingly on toast . Boxing day is usually a joint of Beef .

I don’t really like turkey & I much prefer different meats for Christmas Day 🙂

Sadly had no Christmas foods, Had flu 🙁 :/

I ate goose

We have had a goose sometimes but I don’t like it cold for the next fortnight. Best for a big gathering where the whole lot goes on Christmas Day.

Never had Goose and never had Turkey. When the family gather on the big day, we cook Chicken, Beef and Lamb. That covers all the bases.