A glass before the beast

I have the clearest possible conception of my favourite dinner. The gustatory image of it is fixed in whatever part of the cerebellum is reserved for such things. I struggle towards it from whatever condition of penury I find myself in. I fantasise about it, supplement it in imagination, and even sometimes dream that it has come true. But in my sober, waking moments I know that there is no such dish as lobster with crackling, and all attempts to imagine the sweet, delicate flesh of this sublime creature encrusted with a golden crown of its own cutaneous parchment collapse before the horrid truth, that its pure white flesh must be scooped from a shell of loathsome petrine calcium, the creepy carapace of an underwater insect.

Still, we can approximate that ultimate repast, and all my festive meals have no other goal. Just two dishes: a lobster dish and a crackling dish, maybe with a salad to add relish to the fat. The lobster dish doesn't have to be lobster: scallops are just as good and shrimp, langoustine, monkfish, even mussels or squid, will usually pass muster. The crackling dish must be what it says: roast pork, goose or duck, with a crisp exterior rich enough to make the interior irrelevant.

What to drink with such a feast? As aperitif I would go for a glass of Chablis: maybe a Montée de Tonnerre or some similar, flinty first growth. Chablis integrates the rich fruit and malic acid of a northern Chardonnay, and clears the dark catacombs for the procession to come.

With the lobster dish I would unhesitatingly go for a great white Burgundy, and why not the greatest of all - a Montrachet or, failing that, a Meursault Blagny - of which I would drink a glass before the beast, another with it, and a third to celebrate its burial.

Crackling can be washed down with beer - the Czechs have a habit of doing this while wearing smiles of a disgusting candour. I myself would go for a Bierzo, the wonderful wine from the north-west region of Spain, which tastes as though it had come from an earthenware jar of old Falernian, spewed by a volcano from sediments laid two millennia ago. But I would allow myself no more than a glass, in order to prepare the way for the dessert, which would consist purely of wine: a great claret, like Château Lafite 1945, Château Latour 1949, or Château Haut-Brion 1961, which I would wave in an affected manner before my face, in order to be dismissed from the company into some darkened corner where I could drink it alone, first one glass, then another, regretting only that I had drunk anything else.

Roger Scruton is a philosopher and countryside campaigner as well as an author and broadcaster. Widely regarded as one of Britain’s leading right wing thinkers, his publications include the Meaning of Conservatism. He has also written on fox hunting.

This article first appeared in the 22 December 2008 issue of the New Statesman, Christmas and New Year special