Day Twenty Two
Christmas food traditions
Every country has its seasonal specialities for food and drink. We’re tending to lose some of them because almost everything can be grown somewhere and shipped to us (at significant costs) so the seasonal food traditions are becoming blurred now. When you can have crisp, fresh apples any day of the year (often shipped from Chile) people don’t get excited about the arrival of the first Coxes from our own orchards.
Traditional foods for this country have changed, and not so subtly, over the centuries. At one time, the standard Christmas dinner was a big haunch of beef; later, goose, and now it tends to be turkey. Turkey is high in tryptophan, which is a good reason why people fall asleep after Christmas dinner as this is used in health supplements for insomnia and sleep problems.
Certain delicacies are only on sale in the shops at this time of year; our local deli has already run out of marzipan stollen. My late father-in-law loved mince pies so much that my mother-in-law used to make them all year round, from scratch. She made the best mince pies I’ve ever tasted, serving them hot, the pastry lids flipped up to insert a dollop of brandy butter before sticking the lid down and putting them in the oven for a few minutes to melt the butter and crisp up the pastry.
I’m not a huge fan of mince pies myself; I can take them or leave them, but I like the history of them. It’s a myth that they were once banned by law (during the Commonwealth, while this country was a republic under Cromwell) but they were seen as idolatrous and frivolous by the Puritans. All the more reason in my mind to keep the tradition going! If you follow the two links, you can find out more of the history of the humble mince pie, and an original recipe for the savoury type that my ancestors enjoyed.