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Cotswolds local and seasonal food - December 2017

"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful."

The Winter solstice or “Yule” falls this year on Thursday 21st December - specifically at 16.28pm. It represents the shortest day, and longest night of the year. The Summer solstice in June gave us 17 hours 36 minutes of daylight whereas this month, the shortest day will provide only 6 hours 57 minutes. However as Hal Borland said, “ winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn” so we must be as patient as our ancient forefathers and light will bring new life after Nature's natural pause. *Norman Vincent Peale

Those forefathers lived and died by the seasons, so the longest night for them signified the rebirth of “The Oak King” and a return of the “Sun King” or “Giver of Life” after months of cold and darkness. Bonfires, and later candles were lit as a symbol of hope, and boughs of evergreen branches symbolized the eternal cycle of creation. Crops and trees were "wassailed" with toasts of spicy cider. The Druids cut mistletoe that grew on the sacred oak trees and gave it as a symbol of life and a blessing in the dark winter months. Apples were hung from trees as a reminder that Spring would return and the holly and ivy wreaths represented the "Wheel of The Year". Yule logs were burned to conquer darkness and the ash scattered across fields to bring luck for the coming year’s harvest. Weather-lore has it that “a clear, star-filled night on Christmas Eve will bring good summer crops”, so wassail your hearts out, enjoy some spicy cider and look to the stars this Christmas for a great crop in 2018 for our farmers, menus and tables.

December is a busy month in our industry, with production of farm, brewery and artisan products reaching over-drive. Our van is full to the brim of farm-fresh products from Saturdays' Farmer's market in Stroud and our suppliers' trucks buzz in and out of our yard, corresponding to the festive demands. December is a natural time to reflect on the past year so we thank all our exceptionally hard-working staff both front and back of house who are dedicated to delivering great food and service. Our thanks also go to our “30 Mile Food and Drink Heroes” for their on-going commitment to providing such inspirational, authentic products and service. We are also very grateful to our “Barter-at-the-Back-Door” contributors bringing their baskets of home-grown goodies, and of course, you, our guests for your support, company and comments which continually help us adjust and improve what we do.

Bartering has been a well-established way of life here at The Priory Inn and throughout the growing season we welcome many local gardeners with trugs and baskets of home-grown goodies. The most recent and pleasant surprise was a basket of freshly picked kiwi fruit, grown on a local sunny wall! Full of nutrients due to the low food miles and completely delicious, they are a garnish on our cheese board and out on our breakfast buffet.

Our time-honoured approach to enjoying seasonal food continues to enjoy a resurgence with many vocal supporters: cook from scratch; enjoy real food; strip away the complicated layers of nutritional advice that befuddle us; and, get back to the basics. Michael Pollan, author of “In Defence of Food” gives some simple guidance on how to eat a healthy diet and enjoy it - which we like to endorse at The Priory Inn: 1) don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn't recognise as food; 2) don’t buy anything with more than five ingredients; 3) only eat at a table; 4) eat slowly and communally; 5) distrust any food claiming health benefits.

The two beautiful Christmas trees taking pride of place this year are from The Charlton Park Estate, just outside Malmesbury. We selected them one bright, frosty November morning from within the vast walled gardens which have historically supplied food from the late 16th Century for many Earls of Suffolk.

The Christmas Party season is underway and we have a tasty and festive menu in place with choices that will suit everyone. The menu on our website is available every day for either lunch or dinner from now until January 2018 for groups from between 6 and 60. However, if you want to really let your hair down, then reserve a table on our Christmas party night on the 14th December. This "ups the ante" when it comes to a festive atmosphere with the obligatory crackers, twinkly lights and a DJ spinning your choice of discs! Please call to reserve a table.

This New Year's Eve you can eat and drink with us as normal: no fixed menu or entrance fees; normal service with the pizza menu running; disco lights and music after 10pm; party poppers on the tables; and, naturally the midnight countdown to welcome in 2018. We still have early tables available and the full dinner menu runs from 5pm. Please be sure to book if you are looking for an early slot (soon) as we will be jam-packed on the night!

We have had almost 700 nights of live Sunday music at The Priory Inn. The performer starts each week at 8pm and entry is free.  On the 3rd December we welcome Dik Cadbury performing a selection of his favourite covers and original material on 6 and 12 string acoustic guitars. Larkham and Hall mix jazz & classical piano playing with sultry vocals on the 10th and the last act of 2017 is Steve Degutis on the 17th December playing a wealth of self-penned songs with an eclectic style to suit all tastes - soul, rock, jazz and blues. See here for information on each performer.

The Priory Inn team wishes all our customers and suppliers a truly merry Christmas and a happy and healthy 20188
“For last year's words belong to last year's language;
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning."
T.S. Eliot