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When it comes to making most of New Year, greed really is good ...

Forget those easily-broken pledges to abstain from all things delicious this month, says Samuel Muston, January should be all about spoiling yourself even more than usual.

It is that pleasing time of year when thoughts turn inevitably to Michael Douglas. More specifically, to Michael Douglas when he wore two-tone shirts, braces and liberal amounts of Brylcreem. January is, or at least it is for sensible people, the Gordon Gekko month.

Never in the year is the noted steak tartare-eater's maxim more pertinent than in this, the first month.

In January, ladies and gentleman, greed is good, and in this instance, yes, it does mark the upward surge of mankind and might well save us all, certainly from misery at any rate.

Of all the mealy-mouthed initiatives slowly foisted on us in the last decade, the most pernicious is a dry-healthy-gym-bound January. The whole notion is almost incredible to me. Because, well, forget April, January is the cruellest of all months. It is cold, it is grey, it is, more often than not, dark as pitch and if there is something in those 31 days to look forward to, then I would like to be told about it. The remedy is obvious then: gluttony and greed, lots of food and not a little booze.

The thing is, though, you need to do it with care and finesse, otherwise you risk being boorish. There is an interior logic to it.

Greed is not an unordered void to be fallen into with animal passion, as with sex, but something that takes planning, concentration, patience and more than a little courage. You don't accidentally become someone who eats 14-course dinners. Like skiing, it takes practice.

First off, you need to make the most of the fact that in January, all the amateur gluttons have retreated back into lycra and, well, hunger - so shun your local restaurant and aim big and aim high: choose a place you wouldn't normally have a hope in hell of getting in to. In January, they will welcome you like a victorious chieftain.

I remember the first vast dinner I ever ate. It was in Paris, in a restaurant that looked like it had been designed solely for the signing of peace treaties, so vast and festooned in chandeliers was it. The food was a sort of Ducassian cuisine classique and frankly I wanted more than the menu would allow. So I asked the maître d' if I could have their tasting menu, but every time there was a choice on there, could I have two smaller versions.

He looked at me with brief incomprehension and then his face lit up like a jack-o'-lantern as the words hit home. And that is the second thing you must do when you are being greedy in January: ask for exactly what you want.

There is seldom a time when you are more likely to be indulged. I managed that night to eat the scallops with black truffle and the chicken; the langoustine and the duck. The colours and flavours of that meal still seem vivid. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Because what point in your day goes faster than lunch or dinner?

So if you want this drizzly month to pass by as quickly as a train, then take this month as one of enjoyment and let the experience wash over you: don't fight it, don't let the thin, vinegary voice in your mind tell you that you have had enough food - silence it with another slice, spoonful or glass.

That way lies true satisfaction.

Belfast Telegraph


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