The Duke - December 17, 2014

Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro
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With just a week to go it’s to be hoped you’ve got your Christmas Day dinner arrangements, well, arranged actually.

It’s never easy working out who likes what (let alone who likes who) so at Duke Mansions we’ve made a point of never inviting vegetarians or vegans to dine with us over the festive period.

I mean it’s understandable for anyone not to class sprouts as their favourite plate filler (hats off to the marketing team which made them a Christmas “must have” food) but if the great Chef In The Sky didn’t intend us to tuck into turkey then why did he create the otherwise fairly superfluous creature in the first place?

Anyway we are down to four for Christmas Day Dinner these days and we have pre-arranged a “no surprises” meal of firm favourites (even pudding has gone from the menu this year, replaced by a chocolate log – though I for one will miss the rum sauce and may have to substitute it for plain old rum neat).

I reckon though The Manager has got off lightly. I mean what if I’d bumped into Hitler, Mussolini or Idi Amin down at the local and invited them back for a bit of Christmas spirit and plate full of grub?

No panic. Victoria Clark and Melissa Scott have solved the problem in their fascinating new tome, “Dictators’ Dinners: A Bas Taste Guide to Entertaining Tyrants” (Gilgamesh, £14.95).

So if an ageing and confused Adolf H arrived at the front door bearing signed copies of Mein Kampf we’d have the petits poussins a la Hambourg bubbling away.

If you aren’t familiar with Third Reich favourite foods (and it would be a bit of a giveaway if you were) it’s baby pigeons stuffed with tongue, liver and pistachio nuts.

Not bad for someone who famously steered clear of meat because of his chronic flatulence problem. But a bit of a problem for our normally very adaptable local butcher.

Fidel Castro (pictured) apparently adores turtle soup but Mussolini surprisingly disliked pasta and claimed mashed potato gave him headaches. Favouring rough chopped raw garlic with oil and lemon he found invitations to dinner and kissing under the mistletoe were increasingly few and far between.

Colonel Gaddafi liked Italian pastries and pasta dishes but also had a problem with uncontrollable wind brought on by drinking too much camel’s milk – and eating camel meat with couscous and added prunes.

Saddam Hussein was an unlikely fastidious diner, obsessed with cleanliness and portion sizes, he had beef and lamb delivered to his 20 palaces where they all prepared three meals a day on the off chance he would turn up.

All had to be farm fresh and trimmed of fat. Shrimps and lobsters had to be fresh daily and olives had to come from the Golan Heights.

Strangely he also loved Mateus Rose and Quality Street (separately) – and died next to a near empty box of Bounty bars.

Less mundane, Idi Amin is quoted as saying “I don’t like human flesh – it’s too salty for me” but ate up to 40 oranges every day, turned his attention to pizza and KFC when exiled to Saudi Arabia and would serve guests bee larvae and fried grasshoppers (would that be KFG then?).

The otherwise reprehensible Kim Jong-Il of North Korea wins the award for Most Fastidious Dictator though.

An army of women had to ensure every grain of rice was the same size, live lobsters were sent to him on the Trans Siberian Express and his personal chefs jetted all over the world to buy Iranian caviar, Thai mangoes and Japanese rice cakes and mugwort (considered to be the universal herb for protection and prophecy through the ancient world).

So I don’t think turkey and all the trimmings is too much to ask.

I’ve got super powers too...

The Only One threw me a curve ball the other day.

“Which super power would you most like to have dad?” he asked with a poker face.

It was, of course a trick question dating back to an alcohol induced and predictably lengthy out pouring I’d once delivered about the annoying confusion about the difference between Super Heroes and Heroes With Super Developed Powers (or something like that).

Basically it’s the difference between Superman and Batman or The Flash and Arrow (wake up at the back!).

Superman and The Flash have super powers because of accidents of birth or science, Batman and Arrows have human powers honed to near perfection. Simple.

It’s not something I dwell on too much because at my age I shouldn’t be overdosing on television series such as Gotham, The Flash and Arrow – and, anyway I reluctantly sold my comic book collection a few years ago, so these days I get confused between the X Men and the Justice League of America.

For the record, as a shy teenager I always fancied having the power of invisibility. But for all the wrong reasons.

Amazingly, aged 65 I’ve discovered I do, in fact, possess invisibility. Or so it seems when trying to get served in trendy bars or attracting the attention of waiting staff in restaurants.