By Carleton Varney- Special to the Palm Beach Daily News
I’ve been thinking about a beautifully laid and appointed holiday table with all the delicious fixings — roast turkey, roast potatoes, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce and Brussels sprouts.
Have I lost track of the calendar? Am I thinking of Thanksgiving? No. Turkey is a traditional star of Christmas Day dinner in England. The English enjoy the same dishes as we do, just at a different holiday time, as they don’t celebrate an annual day of thanksgiving.
Fans of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” may recall that Mrs. Cratchit served a goose at her family's Christmas dinner past, but you'll also remember that at the end of the story, Ebenezer Scrooge sends the Cratchit family a turkey — the biggest one in the butcher shop — after his liberating change of heart.
And while many cooks in this country serve turkey on both Thanksgiving and Christmas, I often think of an American Christmas dinner as featuring roast beef, prime rib or even baked ham as the entrée.
Thinking about turkey, my mind turns to the importance of the turkey platter for serving and how the folks at Spode, Wedgewood and Staffordshire took this simple, oversized plate and turned it into what has become a family heirloom.
I recall an exhibit at Los Angeles’ Red Pipe Gallery that was aptly named The Turkey Platter Museum. It was an impressive collection of platters — nothing kitschy was on display. Numbering more than 200, the platters were collected over 30 years by Helen Gleason. Her art dealer son, Mat Gleason, saw their exhibition potential.
The platters dated to the 1800s, when pottery and fine china manufacturers began creating platters that would provide a showcase for the bird. The collection included a “flow blue” platter of great value, along with platters depicting turkeys in all shapes, sizes and colors, many surrounded by beautiful and detailed borders.
Perhaps I was drawn to the turkey platter exhibit because I have personally collected plates – some even hand-painted on tin- that I use to decorate my kitchen pantry. You will find many folks who collect blue-and-white platters and use them for wall decorations. I know of an old-fashioned country-style inn in Connemara, Ireland, that has decorated its dining room walls with plates and platters of all varieties of designs.
If Christmas means turkey is on the menu, be sure to tell your friends and family that they are being served a traditional English Christmas dinner.
Then bring on the plum pudding or the mincemeat pie for dessert. And a very Merry Christmas to all who will be celebrating Saturday.