Food & Beverage
Dec 1, 2016
FEAST IN THE CHRISTIAN WORLD
Whatever the political controversies between countries and contradictions among the social strata are, along several thousands of years in a row, in the beginning of each winter all the peoples of the christened world get synchronized in the common pre-holiday bustle, united by the overall atmosphere of joy and anticipation of something magic, erasing all boundaries.
Streets and city squares are full of Christmas lights, and festive wreaths on the entrance doors… Everybody is busy shopping, trying to choose the best gifts for their dear and loved ones. Housewives are thinking of the festive menus. Inspite of the fact that globalization keeps thinning the boundaries between nations, in many families the traditional Christmas dishes are still being served.
The festive dishes which used to garnish Christmas meals in the old times, even in our epoch of convection ovens, combi steamers and kitchen machines are still a kind of luxury, not easy to be cooked by anyone. It is not only the matter of the ingredients which used to make the basis of our ancestors' diet, but also of skill, imagination and sophistication of cooks of those distant times.
For instance, among the vast assortment of traditional Christmas dishes of old Russia one cannot but mention one outlandish culinary creation. The process of its cooking would start with taking out the olive kernels, instead which little pieces of anchovies should be put in. This product, in its turn, would serve filling for a medium size lark, which had to be put inside a big partridge or pheasant. The cooking process, though, would not finish on this stage. The poultry served a stuffing for a piglet, after which this culinary "matrioshka" would be baked in oven. One can only imagine how much time the creation of such a culinary masterpiece used to be taking. The contemporary cooks of the world, of course, rarely undertake such kind of delights to a festive table, nevertheless, traditional Christmas dishes of different countries still deserve our special attention.
The traditional dish of a German Christmas table is goose. It is stuffed and baked with prunes and apples, red cabbage and dumplings. Nowadays, the position of the goose is constricted by the traditional for all Europe Christmas turkey. It is also customary to cook fish, pork with pickled cabbage, homemade pies. Traditionally, there should be some seven or nine dishes on the table symbolizing the "outbreak of life": eggs, caviar, wheat, peas, beans, poppy seeds, among other things. The main dessert of the feast are apples, nuts, candied fruits and raisins, symbolizing wellbeing, prosperity and health. And, of course, there is no way without delicious Christmas pastry: strudels, cakes, biscuits and home sweets.
United States of America
Turkey with cranberry dressing stuffed with bread, cheese, prunes, garlic, beans, mushrooms, apples or cabbage is Christmas dish number one in the United States of America, especially in the northern states of the country. The southerners rarely stick to this tradition, instead of that, they cook veal with spices and herbs. Besides, the must on their Christmas table is ham, vegetable side dishes and salads. The main beverage of a north-american Christmas is eggnog. It is a thick cocktail of whipped eggs and creams with sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, in an option with alcohol it also takes cognac, rum, brandy or whisky. It is served in small glass cups to anyone coming to the house.
A Russian table has always featured abundance, and not the last place on it is dedicated to pastry. There should be 12 dishes on a Russian festive table, one for each month of the coming year. Most of these dishes traditionally are of meat – the exuberance of meat and poultry on a Russian Christmas table is explained by the fact that, by the time of termination of the Christmas fast, there started cattle slaughter and hunting season. During Christmas, one can see such dishes on a Russian table, as "kholodetz" (meat aspic), jellied fish, roasted goose or duck, and a huge amount of salads, the "tsar of the feast" is, of course, the traditional salad "Olivier" (known as "Russian salad").
In the Middle Ages, the main dish of an English Christmas table was the boar's head, but, since the XVIIth century the residents of "Foggy Albion", Great Britain, recognize as the "queen of the holiday" only turkey under gooseberry sauce. Another Christmas treat with a long history is the plum pudding, which long time ago used to be just a simple porridge cooked in meat broth, but transformed to a dessert with raisins, prunes, almonds, honey, vanilla, and other spices. They usually add silver change and jewellery into the plum pudding, to attract fortune. Before serving, they pour brandy or rum over it and set fire.
French people, being true gourmets, cannot imagine their Christmas table without the turkey with chestnuts or under white wine dressing, neither without oysters, foie gras, a generous cheese plate, and a bottle of expensive wine. Moreover, the inhabitants of France are pretty much "sweet teeth". During the holiday in the country, a huge amount of Christmas cakes and the pie-roll "Bouchet de Noelle" with tender sweet cream.
In French Provence, they have sweet traditions of their own: they are accustomed to set table with 13 desserts of dried fruit, nuts, nougat, among other things, symbolizing Jesus Christ and his Apostles at the "Last Supper".
On Christmas Eve, on Norwegian tables there are lamb or pork ribs, fish, mashed turnips, sauerkraut and boiled potatoes. Thanks to the influence of the neighbouring European countries turkey and ham became part of their festive menu, too.
A Christmas lunch a "la Norge" (Norwegian) is pork stew with pickled cabbage, dried salted or steamed lamb ribs with grated turnips and potatoes, sausages and meatballs. Instead of pork there can be a fish dish. The strongest spirit of the feast is savoury potato vodka. For dessert, Norwegian housewives serve seven kinds of cookies or biscuits, as the festive traditions demand.
The Orthodox Bulgaria celebrates Christmas on the 25th of December, just as Catholics do. On the first day of celebration, eve, they only have "Lenten dishes" (without fat) on the table, necessarily in odd number: red bell peppers stuffed with beans or rice, cabbage stuffed with vegetables, stewed prunes, pears and apples, beans or lentils, and "tikvenik" - a layer cake with pumpkin filling.
On the second day, the Christmas dinner is even richer: the Bulgarians eat stuffed or baked carp, stewed, baked or roasted meat with vegetables, and "banitza" – layer pie with cottage cheese, brynza cheese, veal, egg plants, apples. They bake inside of "banitza" coins, dogwood buds, and rolled up messages with warm words, with wishes for the coming year. As far as poultry is concerned, they cook it with less enthusiasm – it is considered that happiness would fly away on its wings from the home.
Have a nice Christmas meal!