Monday, 9 December 2013

It’s All About the Food - Xmas Food

Well we know Xmas is about two things, presents and food.  I like my Christmases white – which is why I try and have them overseas and that fact that the cold allows for great yummy food.  I love the snow, the smells of spice in the air and the winter clothes that cover the body. 

USA   first, many American families have a Xmas Eve celebration.  In my hubby’s family it’s Chinese food – and if you think that’s not so strange, they’re from the Deep South and Chinese food isn’t great there.  (I think Australia has some of the best Chinese food I’ve had – so colour me biased).  So they cook their own version of Chinese and eat it at his sister’s place – its spring rolls (egg rolls in their parlance), stir fry.  So why do so many people have Xmas Eve because often the family Xmas food isn’t that great (according to the many online discussion groups I visited) – forget the Norman Rockwell Xmas. 

Sweet Potato
US Xmas is a replay of Thanksgiving – turkey, drippings (the juice in the pan), gravy.  mashed potato, sweet potato (I particularly like the marshmallow added), dressing (stuffing but made on the stove top), green bean salad (here’s the classic recipe), and jello salad (made with jelly and a can of cocktail fruit).  Finally there’s a cool whip salad – which is made with fake cream, jelly and whatever is on hand, usually some kind of tinned fruit, marshmallows and for some reason cottage cheese—its an ungodly looking mess and sweet as.  There are hundreds of variation here. 

Jello "Salad"
Utah is the centre of the “Jello Belt”, and has the highest consumption per capita of any state; you aren’t Mormon if you don’t have a green (green is a flavour not a colour note) jello salad at your table. Mormons are much more inventive with their salads and include carrot, raisins, potato chips, or cornflakes.  Notice the words salad?  It makes them sound healthy – they’re NOT. 

Cool Whip Salad
Desert is pumpkin pie – in all my years in the USA all the ones I’ve had have been shop-bought.  Mainly people are so busy it’s easier – I made my own cos silly me, I thought that was tradition and my Xmas family were awed and I was seriously worried.  What had I been eating all these years?  Of course mine wasn’t as good because it wasn’t uniform and tasted “funny” – obviously not enough sugar.  Pie is topped with Cool Whip. Cool Whip is a fake cream doesn’t have a diary item in it and probably is made from a byproduct of the petroleum industry.  See this experiment

Turducken - is another of those crazy US things -- not for the vegetarian or the feint hearted.  The turducken is a turkey stuffed with a duck and a chicken.  The latter two are deboned.    Phew I wondered who thought up that combination -- I mean seriously what made someone thing of shoving these three birds inside each other?  It must be incredibly rich and not really to my taste but it is called the "ultimate" Xmas food.  It takes hours to prepare though google and you'll see some Aussie butchers have done the hard work;  then of course there is the hours it must take to cook all the way through.  Apparently the recipe originated in Louisiana - nuff said. 

Xmas Cake
Japan – The big food items in Japan are KFC and Xmas Cake. KFC is so popular it is ordered months in advance and people queue for it.  The Xmas Cake (KURISUMASU KEEKI) is much more to my taste, it’s a shortcake (sponge) topped with cream and strawberries.  In the past, cakes that weren’t sold by Xmas Day were considered past their prime and unmarried Japanese women over the age of 25 (!) became known as Christmas Cakes.  Obviously this has changed.

American Fruit Cake
Speaking of Xmas Cakes, the American Fruit Cake is chockablock full of dried fruit, candied peel and nuts and I mean chockablock – there is very little cake. I made one once and my mother loved it.  It is not a traditional Xmas cake however.  At the other end of the spectrum is the parsimonious Dundee cake – which has few fruits (currants, raisins, sultanas and cherries) but lashings of whisky – not Scottish much.   Stollen German fruit cakes and Panettone Italian cakes are two European Xmas versions. The French King Cake has a charming tradition –  it used to have a broad bean in it and the person who finds it is then King/Queen for the day—today it has porcelain or plastic figurines instead. (It’s an old tradition and Samuel Pepys recorded eating the cake).  Variations of the King Cake are seen in Spain and Latin America celebrating Epiphany; in America it is most likely to be associated with Mardi Gras.

Of course we all know the tradition of adding threepences and sixpences to the British Xmas pudding.  Because of their high silver content, the only danger is to dentistry.  But definitely don’t do this with contemporary coins!

Glogg the way I remember it
Scandinavia – forget the Xmas food- it’s all about the drink, Glögg.  This we had in abundance in Denmark, Sweden and some other countries, hic.  It is a high octane mulled wine served hot made with a potpourri of spices and red wine, port, and brandy.  And often had a lone peanut in the bottom.  I don’t know why the peanut and hubby and I still ponder this. We had loads of indepth discussions about this in the course of our research.  It certainly kept us warm as we toddled back to the hotel. 

Mexico - I had this in Mexico.  Menudo is a traditional Mexican Christmas dish that had TRIPE (and I ate tripe) but it's disguised by hominy and spices. The tripe is cooked for hours and it is delicious -- spicy and warming (remember it's cold there).   Rumour is that it's good a cure for a hangover, but I can't vouch for that.  

UK - while the UK has turned it's poor reputation for food around - I cannot forgive a country that invented blood pudding, or fruit cake or mince pies  However the worst addition to the Xmas table has to be brussels sprouts - no matter how they are done -  what were they thinking? 

Some Other Traditional Feasts - Buffet Style - taken from this website

In Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (e.g., Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania), an elaborate and ritualised meal of twelve meatless dishes is served on the Eve of Christmas (24th December). This is because the pre-Christmas season is a time of fasting, which is broken on Christmas Day. As is typical of Slavic cultures, great pains are taken to honour the spirits of deceased relatives, including setting a place and dishing out food for them

Finland (Santa's Home) Joulupöytä (translated “Christmas table”) is the name of the traditional food board served at Christmas in Finland, similar to the Swedish smörgåsbord. It contains many different dishes, most of them typical for the season. The main dish is usually a large Christmas ham, which is eaten with mustard or bread along with the other dishes. Fish is also served (often lutefisk and gravlax), and with the ham there are also laatikot, casseroles with liver and raisins, as well as potatoes, rice, and carrots.

Italy - On Christmas Eve, Southern Italians celebrate with a dinner called the Feast of the Seven Fishes, which features seven seafood dishes prepared every which way. There is no traditional menu, but there are some popular dishes, including pan-fried smelts, calamari, homemade linguine with clams, baked eel, and baccala, or salt cod. Why seven dishes? It's unclear, but most explanations point to how the number seven is referenced in the Bible and the Roman Catholic Church. Some families prepare more than seven seafood dishes, with the numbers having religious significance.

Apparently New Zealand has claimed the pavlova as their Xmas dish.  What?!

Finally, for those people who are on their own or are a bit strapped for Xmas dinner - it's Christmas Tinner.  Yep, Xmas dinner in a can -- according to the Huffington Post it has nine layers.  From breakfast to Christmas pudding.  It's probably a hoax but that hasn't stopped people from ordering it - it's sold out.

So I wonder what your Xmas fare looks like?  Have a happy day!


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