Getting in the Festive Mood through Christmas Food
Well it must be said that when I start thinking about festive foods at Christmas time I always thinks of marzipan fruits, mince pies, Christmas pudding and tins of chocolates, but as I contemplate heading to Christmas markets food markets I have begun wondering what Christmas foods are traditional around the world.
Christmas has definitely become an occasion for Christians and those who just love food and tinsel across the globe to gather and enjoy good nosh.
Puerto Rican egg-nog served in coconut shells through to the broken-king-cake of Portugal, there’s an incredible array of cuisines on display here- alongside a few more outlandish dishes that will make you wonder whether the chef that dreamed them up had downed a few too many glasses of the regional equivalent of eggnog.
In Britain the one up-manship of how big and heavy your turkey is, most definitely still exists and whilst it might be a headache to prepare the turkey and trimmings for a large family; think yourself lucky for at least a turkey can be put in an oven. The Puerto Rican national dish is the roast suckling pig known as lechón, and so whilst you pop in your kitchen to baste the turkey just consider that the lechón needs the near enough constant attention of at least two people as it slowly turns on an outdoor spit from early hours in the morning. If you fancy a Puerto Rican festive themed Christmas this year then you’ll need to wash down your roast suckling pig with a coconut shell full of coquito, a festive drink that is similar to eggnog but made with coconut milk, condensed milk and a generous dash of rum.
In Portugal the theme of festive food is very different to ours in Britain, with Codfish and boiled potatoes making up the bulk of the traditional Christmas-eve meal, I’m sure it’s delicious but I’m not really tempted to add the dish to my festive menu at home; however, the pastries and sweet treats that they enjoy are something I would love to sample. The Portuguese enjoy Finhoses which are strands or balls of light, spiced dough, dusted with icing sugar; whilst the formigos they enjoy are a sweet, sticky blend of nuts, honey and raisins. Though delicious as these look and sound Bolo Rei is the king-cake. Nuts and crystallised fruit decadently cover the surface of this white, fluffy sweet and sumptuous treat, that is named in commemoration of the Magi. Variations of Bolo-Rei include the beautifully-named Bolo-Rei escangalhado, or broken-king-cake, which drips with cinnamon and chilacayote jam and just looks like culinary heaven.
Eastern Europe not only have some amazing Christmas markets, but they also have some wonderful traditions. Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine all offer a range of variations on an intricate twelve-dish Christmas Eve feast. Meat, eggs and milk are all kept off the table by the regulations of the Nativity Fast practiced by the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches, and while this fast is not so strictly observed as it was historically it is still normal to expect to see an array of pescatarian and grain-based dishes on the festive table.
There are a host of traditions accompanying the meal, many dating back to pagan times, and these are things that I find fascinating. These range from the ritual breaking of wafers to the scattering of hay on the table to commemorate the birth of Christ (or the fertility of the coming New Year). Though if you should choose to partake in such feast make sure you do not skip a dish as tradition says you will die within the next year.
Not so much for the menu, but for the service I would definitely say that Greenland is the place to enjoy Christmas dinner because men serve the women throughout the course of a Christmas meal in Greenland. I may adopt this rather lovely tradition in my home this year.
Though the task of eating is certainly one that will render your jaw exhausted for their speciality: mattak is strips of whale blubber encased in whale skin. Then there is kiviak. Baby auks are buried in a seal-skin several months before Christmas, then dug up once they’ve started to rot and served as a delicacy, but before you turn up your nose at the thought of this I’ll just remind you of that terrible British culinary crime from 2013 – Christmas dinner in a tin. This diabolical food crime contained nine layers of food – ranging from a starter to a pudding It was sold for £1.99 per tin and was the creation of high street retailer Game. The full nine layers, from top to bottom, include scrambled egg and bacon, two mince pies, turkey and potatoes, gravy, bread sauce, cranberry sauce, Brussels sprouts with stuffing – or broccoli with stuffing – roast carrots and parsnips and Christmas pudding, All the food layers were sealed in thick gelatine before being added to the tin one at a time. So there you have it, Christmas dinner in a tin…one thing I hope doesn’t become a tradition.
This year I shall be heading to Ireland for Dublin’s Christmas Flea Market and Limerick’s Milk Market and so I shall let you know what Ireland has to offer in terms of festive food and drink.