Finding an alternative to carp for Christmas dinner in Prague

17-12-2004

Many people from Prague's large ex-pat community would balk at the idea of having a carp for Christmas dinner. In places like Ireland and England, the fish is hardly ever eaten as it's considered to be a "dirty" animal. Luckily for many ex-pats, the British-owned Robertson's Butchers has now been supplying meat products that are very common in other countries on the Prague market as well. This includes providing turkeys and hams for people's Christmas dinners.

As you'd expect, the period leading up to Christmas is a very busy time for Robertson's, as Prague residents from mainly English-speaking countries stock up on their traditional Christmas fare.

Englishman Christopher Robertson took over this local butchers more than a year ago, and this is the second year he's been supplying alternative Christmas dinners:

"We do the turkeys, the hams - the whole ham on the bone that is pre-cooked, which people can then roast or honey glaze as they would back home. We've got the stuffing, sausages, the sausages wrapped in bacon. It's the full range of stuff really."

Around 150 people have so far placed orders for turkey and hams, which are standard fare in many places beyond the Czech Republic at Christmastime. So have any of Robertson's Czech customers decided to abandon their traditional carp dinner to try something new this Christmas?

"Well what I didn't realise is that they might all eat their carp on the 24th but on the 25th it's also a bit of a tradition for them to eat turkey. Obviously, a small [Czech] family won't do a great big seven or eight-kilo turkey like we're used to back home. But a lot of people have ordered turkey breast or turkey legs and that sort of thing. So they do eat [turkey] as well. It's not just a British or Irish thing. It's also a Czech thing to eat turkey."

Despite his large foreign clientele, Mr Robertson also sells traditional Czech meats, and estimates that around 95% of his customers are Czech. Surely some of them have been tempted on occasion to try out the "foreign" foods he offers?

"Czechs are very conservative customers. They don't like to try too many things. On the other hand, the streaky bacon's quite popular with the Czechs because it's a slight improvement on their 'ceska anglicka slanina' [an extremely fatty Czech-style "English" bacon]. The sausages were very popular in the summer because people were barbecuing. Not so much [at Christmas] because they have their classic 'vinna klobasa', which is a very fatty equivalent of an English or Irish sausage, but with wine in it. That's what they eat on the 24th for lunch before they cook the carp in the evening."

Besides owning a butchers, Mr Robertson has been running his own farm in western Bohemia for a number of years. So has he himself been tempted to switch to carp for his Christmas dinner?

"Well, as my wife's Czech we thought we'd be having carp on the 24th with her parents, and then on the 25th we'll do a turkey."

Anyone interested in the various international meats and victuals Christopher Robertson supplies in Prague can visit his website at www.robertson.cz

17-12-2004