Another year and another franticly good natured auction on the pavement — and spilling onto the road — outside the historic Smithfield’s Meat Market, but also sadly the last time it will take place here.
ut, fret not, for they are simply moving to a new location within the market, so the auction and the people behind it will take place again next year, just a few yards up the road.
Although refrigeration has technically rendered the need to sell off meat and surplus turkeys ahead of the Christmas slowdown redundant, Harts maintains the tradition.
In fact, they spend the best part of a fortnight preparing for the event, and it is run pretty much at cost to the owner — who does it because it’s a tradition, and keeping traditions alive is good thing. It is these occasional events that break up the monotony of life and give us all little things to look forward to.
But, frankly, a lot of the reason for keeping the Christmas Eve auction alive is because it is such a damn fun thing to do.
A final hurrah to the end of what has been this year a very good Christmas for them.
Pondering the crowd, I paused to think why is it that an event where turkeys and meats are offered pretty much at cost price — and vastly below supermarket rates — doesn’t attract a larger crowd.
It’s a curious mix from the Essex accents of whole families in town to fill a freezer to the stereotypical hipsters eyeing something juicy to impress the friends with their culinary skills.
A larger crowd would be difficult to manage, but there are some amazing bargains to be had, so why isn’t it larger? But there is risk — buy a turkey today and have a cheap Christmas, but fail to catch the butcher’s eye, and you might go home empty handed.
A leg of pork for £20 is a bargain, but how many people reliant on ready meals would be able to cook such a vast joint? Maybe that’s part of the event — a bit of a thank you to those customers who do still buy from butchers because they know how to handle a raw lump of flesh?
I have a trotter which I will save to do something clever with, and frankly, the rest of the leg will be chopped into meal sized chunks, frozen and slowly over the next month turned into a range of pork based meals.
The auction actually requires me to be more adventurous with food, because I now have no choice!
Of course, there is the fun of the event, and what a delight to go shopping in such a wonderful atmosphere. It’s a curious contradiction of an event. Raw capitalism at work, with a crowd waving money over their heads in a manner that resembles the old fashioned stock market before computers.
But this is a meat market, not stocks and shares, unless of course you use the bones to make some stock, then in a way it was a stock market.
It’s as packed as a tube train, and everyone is after a bargain, but no one moans, no one complains and anyone winning a joint on a toss of a coin is cheered.
If only London could be like that a bit more often.
Commercially licensed photos available here