Can a cheap Christmas dinner pass the taste test?
All in all Aldi proved us wrong by serving a dinner that was hard to fault. All that was missing was It’s A Wonderful Life.
I was a late sub in the Pricewatch Christmas dinner canteen dine-in for four, after a camera-shy colleague took one look at the mandatory festive jumper and opted out. I temporarily ditched my deadline, donned my snowman jumper, and sat at a picnic table on the roof of The Irish Times building in the name of, well, what else but work?
What impressed me most was that the provenance of all the food was Irish, and that the Christmas dinner package is undeniably great value. It’s not pre-cooked, so everyone can put their own culinary style on what arrives at the table. Our chefs favoured orange slices on the turkey, something new to the Boland Yuletide palate. Christmas dinner is a ritual meal that can be as expensive as you wish, but not often as inexpensive as you would like. This one was. I think the jumper cost more.
So anyway, Conor Pope said that to help further my career as a serious journalist I should get some photos taken. These would be tastefully done glamour shots, he said, and would involve eating a three-course Christmas dinner while wearing a tight-fitting sky blue jumper with a penguin on it . . . and a crown.
“Just go with it,” said Conor and, as an eager young journalist overawed by the big city, I didn’t feel like I had any choice.
It was just like Christmas in that it involved cynical wise-cracking and drinking in the middle of the day, but not like Christmas at all in that it was November and we were sitting in the freezing cold on the roof.
The starter, smoked salmon with brown bread and pleasantly seasoned leaves, was very nice and the turkey, ham, sprouts, potatoes and stuffing, were delicious. However, what with the troika and Merkel and the rest of it, anti-Germanic patriotism bid me say otherwise.
“Foreign muck!” I declared xenophobically.
“It’s not actually,” said Conor, who was dressed as a Christmas elf as usual. “It’s all from Irish producers.”
“Um – very good then,” I said, and stuffed my face with moist, free-range turkey and ham. “God bless us everyone!”
The two standouts were the plum pudding and the turkey. Given that they are the core of the meal, that counts for a lot. The vegetables were all good and Brussels spouts really well cooked . The only thing that disappointed was the ham, which seemed a bit tough and not that juicy. The smoked salmon was also very good. Stuffing was a bit dry for my taste. All in all, it has be good value for €25 a head.