Turkey roast to turkish delight: 10 fictional feasts for Christmas

Many writers find food for thought in the holiday season, from James Joyce’s Dubliners to Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones

Christmas dinner

A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

I have reread A Christmas Carol on multiple Christmas Eves. The story is warm, genuine, heartfelt and full of good food. Though Scrooge eventually takes a turkey to the Cratchits’ on Christmas morning, he (when travelling with the Ghost of Christmas Present) observes them eating goose, stuffing, apple sauce, mashed potatoes, and a plum pudding so good that Bob Cratchit regards it as “the greatest success achieved by Mrs Cratchit since their marriage”. It’s a dream of a Christmas dinner.

Figs and custard

Dubliners, James Joyce

The final, magisterial story “The Dead” is focused on a Christmas dinner. The table is spread with a goose, an enormous crusted ham, spiced beef and an extraordinary list of desserts: blancmanges, figs, custard, jellies and chocolate. I’ll be putting figs and baked custard on the table this year.

Sally Dexter as the White Witch in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe @ Kensington Gardens. Directed by Rupert Goold (2012).
Sally Dexter as the White Witch in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe @ Kensington Gardens. Directed by Rupert Goold (2012). Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

Turkish delight

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis

I first ate proper turkish delight in Istanbul, on a muggy day in May. Regardless of the weather outside the market, I still associated it with Narnia – with the White Witch, and Edmund’s betrayal of his siblings, and a sleigh being driven through crisp white snow.

Christmas pudding

Christmas Pudding, Nancy Mitford

Despite the title, the novel takes place over long weeks of the winter months, pausing only briefly for Christmas. On the day itself, Lady Bobbin is committed to her guests enjoying “a jolly Christmas” and arranges, to that end, a spread featuring turkeys, a boar’s head, the titular Christmas pudding, and the “unlimited opportunity to overeat on every sort of unwholesome food, washed down with honest beer”.


Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

The Christmas scenes in Little Women are some of my favourite parts of the book. The Christmas dinner (turkey, plum puddings and jellies) that takes place when Mr March surprises everyone by arriving home from hospital is beautiful. I particularly love the moment when the March sisters, after taking their glorious breakfast buckwheats to the Hummels, arrive home to French bonbons and pink and white ice-cream, a gift from Mr Lawrence next door.

Crystallised ginger

The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, Agatha Christie

In The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, Hercule Poirot’s hosts have promised “an old-fashioned Christmas in the English countryside”. On Christmas Day, they provide oyster soup, two turkeys, crystallised fruits and ginger, mince pies and a plum pudding – with a ruby hidden in the centre. I will be spending Christmas night reading Christie, with a box of crystallised ginger beside me.

Mince pies

Behind the Scenes at the Museum, Kate Atkinson

Faced with an unexpected family tragedy, Ruby Lennox and her sister spend one memorable Christmas home alone, watching hours of TV, with tinned food and packets of mince pies to sustain them. It’s a much more sombre holiday than most of the others here, but one that has stayed with me long after I closed the book.

Left to right: Yasmin Paige as Petrova, Lucy Boynton as Posy and Emma Watson as Pauline in the 2007 television version of Ballet Shoes.
Left to right: Yasmin Paige as Petrova, Lucy Boynton as Posy and Emma Watson as Pauline in the 2007 television version of Ballet Shoes. Photograph: ITV Productions


Ballet Shoes, Noel Streatfeild

The account of the Fossil sisters’ Christmas in Ballet Shoes includes that meal we always start guiltily suggesting around 8pm: the post-Christmas lunch dinner. They enjoy cold turkey and meringues.

Christmas cake

Wombats Don’t Have Christmas, Jane Burrell and Michael Dugan

The temperature on Christmas Day in Australia regularly approaches 35 degrees, and after feasting on prawns, cold meats and salads, people generally jump into the pool. Thankfully, some traditions, such as Christmas pudding and Christmas cake, just can’t be ignored, regardless of the weather. In this children’s book, the little wombats are keen to celebrate a traditional Christmas, even though their father doesn’t think it’s something wombats should do. They manage to trick him into it – giving him presents, feeding him fat slices of iced fruitcake, and stringing up fairy lights.

Leftover turkey curry

Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding

In the days following Christmas, with a box of leftover scraps of bird in the fridge, I turn to the Jones’s friends Una and Geoffrey and their turkey curry buffet for inspiration. Their party may be Bridget’s least favourite part of the holiday, but I cook the curry every year.

The Little Library Cookbook by Kate Young is published by Anima.


Kate Young

The GuardianTramp

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