The weekend of prodigious eating started, fittingly enough, with Thanksgiving. I cooked for husband and the neighbors, and the evening went off without a hitch other than the disappearance of twenty gourmet marshmallows that dissolved into my sweet potato casserole because I left it in the oven too long. (It took visits and enquiries to no fewer than five London shops, including Selfridges, to find those marshmallows. When a specialist American candy shop in Covent Garden couldn’t help, I conceded to the artisan fluff on offer at Whole Foods at a cost of approximately 35 cents per marshmallow, only to find a jumbo bag of the things at a gas station about 2 miles from our cottage in the Cotswolds.) There were some minor concessions to this being a British Thanksgiving, including substituting brussel sprouts and roasted potatoes for peas and mash, adding a cheese course, and the fact that there were pheasants alongside the turkeys on my printed novelty napkins. I enjoyed being the cultural authority for the evening—there are not many occasions for this as an American in Britain—and made everyone go around the table and say what they were thankful for.
Then there was the mulled wine. The first was with a bratwurst at the German Christmas market in Cheltenham to celebrate passing my driving test on the first try, much to the surprise of husband and in spite of the fact that my driving instructor was fired by the automobile association the day before, as it turns out for threatening to “thump” another instructor, not his teaching skills. The second was consumed with a slice of panettone following the Advent carol service in G.P.
In between there was a lamb roast at doppelganger couple’s house, during which they confided they’ve also gained weight since moving to the country. It seems our metabolisms, starved of urban stress and toil, go into hibernation. Folds of flesh now reveal themselves at the slightest bend, and when I sit, accordion pleats materialise around my torso. I’ve taken to grasping my sides and kneading them as I attempt to locate ribs, kind of like that piano song where you roll your knuckles back and forth across the black keys. It’s as if I am still convincing myself that, yes, I am quite fat.
The apex of the weekend’s feasting took place on a fine evening, sitting in the marigold velvet arm chairs in front of the fire at our local inn. My menu selection was carnivorous, worthy of a place at Henry VIII’s table. I started with a dish of gherkins, then ham hock and parsley terrine followed by a beef and Guinness pie topped with an oyster on the half shell, washed down with three tumblers of red wine, and informed by the pink remains of the FT Weekend. Duly fortified for battle, I settled into the couch for a Louis Theroux documentary on the American phenomenon of the demolition derby, which made me a little homesick.
On Sunday afternoon we went to the recycling centre to dump the wine bottles from Thanksgiving. As I peered into the shipping container-sized receptacle for green glass I saw inside a thousand empty wine bottles, the detritus of Gloucestershire’s great and good. Gluttony lives on in these slim times.