In the main hall of the Club, the members were seated at heavily laden tables, forming a U shape, the committee and Chairman seated along the shorter cross bar, and the ordinary members along the sides of the U. Not that any member of the Club could be called ordinary. These were men who amounted to something, those who ran the big industrial companies, who explored deep into the dark and unknown hinterlands of the world, unknown that is to civilised man, the natives didn’t count, of course. They braved boardroom battles and savage tribesmen with equal equanimity, armed only with overwhelming money and firepower, and of course, their own self-belief.
The Feast was going well, each course being heralded by the stentorian voice of the Maitre d. The pre banquet drinks had taken more than an hour, gently warming up the members for the task to come, then it was into the hall and a magnificent parsnip and coriander soup, with naturally, hilarious comments about later repeats. The smoked salmon mousse was light and danced on the tongue like an angel, the dry white wine that was served with it was an exquisite accompaniment. This was followed by sharp lemon sorbets to clear the palette, and a glass of French Calvados brandy, known to the well travelled, which covered most of the members, as La Tru Normand, a play on words that could mean the True Norman or the Norman Hole. Whichever, it burned a space in the previous courses, leaving room for the main to come.
The tables were cleared of the remains, and in came platters of roast potatoes, parsnips, carrots glazed with honey and mustard, pyramids of brussel sprouts, crushed sweet potato and swede with butter, balls of forcemeat, dishes of stuffing and a host of other delicious foods. Then it was time for the triumphant procession of liveried footmen to bring in the huge silver salvers, covered by massive silver domes, under which was hidden the Chef’s Christmas masterpiece. The dishes were placed in front of the members, the footmen took a step back, placed one hand on the handle of the cover in front of them and prepared to reveal the artistry.
“My Lords, Knights, squires and gentlemen! Pray silence and give respect to the main dish of the day….” the Maitre d paused for effect, “the roast..”
As he started the word roast each footman raised the cover in front of him, revealing not the expected glistening and steaming turkeys, especially imported from the Americas, but something quite different. It caused the Maitre d to blanch, but consummate professional that he was, he continued with barely a pause, “That dish of heroes, the epitome of Christmas fortitude, from the distant fjords, lutefisk a la Bookworm, prepared for your delectation from our very own Wiggyfish and cinderberrys!”
There was a dark muttering from around the tables, and the Chair threw a very peculiar look in the direction of the gently stewing Maitre d, who stepped smartly forward and threw down the gauntlet.
“For gentlemen not equal to the task, we do naturally have some cold ham available from the Pantry.” The words “cold ham” came out as if he was speaking some foul curse, and he glanced round the faces before him, daring them to call for such a dish.
The hush was broken by an old explorer, with “I say, ain’t had lutefisk since old Jonny and I were up exploring the Arctic Circle, brings back memories, wonderful stuff!”
With that he reached forward and carved a large portion, depositing it on his plate. The rest of the company followed his example, the entrepreneurs slightly more hesitant than the explorers, the white mass quivering on the serving knives. The Maitre d heaved a deep internal sigh of relief and stepped back to his customary position as the members tucked in, the piles of vegetables going down far faster than had been known at any previous Feast….
Later that night, sitting in front of the kitchen fire with the Chef, both of them with their boots off, feet resting on the hearth, toes gently steaming, with a large glass of the special brandy in hand, the Maitre d tried to work out what had happened.
“Must have been when that lad tripped with the soup cauldron…” he mused, “We all ran over to help, that were the only time the birds were left.”
“Yes,” his friend replied, “but just how did they manage the switch, six prime turkeys, covered and resting, for them wiggyfish? Mind, that lutefisk was the finest I’ve tasted in many a year, someone put in a lot of time and effort in on them.”
“You tried some? Lutefisk? Always knew you cooks were daft…”
In an urchin hideout, far from prying eyes, a group of children sat round the table, just looking. There, in a long row, were six of the plumpest, most mouth watering roast turkeys they had ever seen……