As we are full on Christmas vibes, I wanted to share with you some festive food stories and traditions.
Why we eat Turkey or Goose in Christmas?
The tradition of a roasted goose on the holiday table goes way, way back. The people of ancient Greece and Rome may have been celebrating different festivals, but they did so with the very same bird we do. From medieval days right through to the Victorian depiction in Charles Dickens, the goose has remained the ubiquitous Christmas bird throughout Europe.
The goose was a common farmyard bird and a natural forager that came in handy after the harvest. When turned loose in the stubble left from the reaper’s work, geese could find and devour all the scattered grain that would otherwise be lost. Thus, a goose was at its fattest (think tastiest) after the harvest, just in time for the coming holiday celebrations.
Geese were plentiful and cheaper than the exotic turkey (native to the New World) so made the best choice for the holiday table. Today you can join the tradition and enjoy this delectable bird at Christmas.
Turkeys where first bought into Britain in 1526, before that Goose was the traditional food. Turkeys were eating instead of the cows and chicken as they needed their cows more for their milk and the chicken for the eggs.
King Henry VIII was the first to eat Turkey on Christmas however it wasn’t until 1950’s that the turkey was a more popoular festive meal choice than the goose.
Nowadays 87% of the Brits believe that Christmas won’t be the same without a roasted turkey.
Christmas pudding originated as a 14th century porridge called ‘frumenty’ that was made of beef and mutton with raisins, currants, prunes, wines and spices. This would often be more like soup and was eaten as a fasting meal in preparation for the Christmas festivities.
By 1595, frumenty was slowly changing into a plum pudding, having been thickened with eggs, breadcrumbs, dried fruit and given more flavor with the addition of beer and spirits. It became the customary Christmas dessert around 1650, but in 1664 the Puritans banned it as a bad custom.
In 1714, King George I re-established it as part of the Christmas meal, having tasted and enjoyed Plum Pudding. By Victorian times, Christmas Puddings had changed into something similar to the ones that are eaten today.
Putting a silver coin in the pudding is another age-old custom that is said to bring luck to the person that finds it.
In the UK the coin traditionally used was a silver ‘six pence’. The closest coin to that now is a five pence piece!
Were originally filled with meat, such as lamb, rather than the dried fruits and spices mix as they are today. They were also first made in an oval shape to represent the manger that Jesus slept in as a baby, with the top representing his swaddling clothes. Sometimes they even had a ‘pastry baby Jesus’ on the top!
During the Stuart and Georgian times, in the UK, mince pies were a status symbol at Christmas. Very rich people liked to show off at their Christmas parties by having pies made is different shapes (like stars, crescents, hearts, tears, & flowers); they fancy shaped pies could often fit together a bit like a jigsaw! They also looked like the ‘knot gardens’ that were popular during those periods. Having pies like this meant you were rich and could afford to employ the best, and most expensive, pastry cooks.
A custom from the middle ages says that if you eat a mince pie on every day from Christmas to Twelfth Night (evening of the 5th January) you will have happiness for the next 12 months!
Marzipan & Turron
The origin of Marzipan is not clear being Germany, Spain, Italy and Hungary the main countries from which could come from.
This pastries are mainly eaten in Christmas but you can find them throughout the year.
Nowadays it is a strong tradition in many different countries like England and Germany.
In Germany and throughout much of northern Europe it is considered good luck to receive a marzipan pig on Christmas or New Year’s Day. The Spanish and Portuguese are big consumers of marzipan too. But perhaps the form of marzipan that Americans are most familiar with are the cute little miniature fruit shapes that pop up all over.
Turron is a southern European nougat confection, typically made of honey, sugar, and egg white, with toasted almonds or other nuts, and usually shaped into either a rectangular tablet or a round cake. It is frequently consumed as a traditional Christmasdessert in Spain and Italy as well as countries formerly under the Spanish Empire, particularly in Latin America.
All versions of the name appear to have been derived from Latin torrere (to toast). The modern confection might be derived from the Muslim recipe prevalent in parts of Islamic Spain known as turun. One may also point to a similar confection named cupedia or cupeto that was marketed in Ancient Rome and noted by Roman poets.
Turrón or Torró has been known at least since the 15th century in the city of Jijona/Xixona (formerly Sexona), north of Alicante. Turrón is commonly consumed in most of Spain, some countries of Latin America, and in Roussillon (France). The similar Torrone is typical of Cremona and Benevento in Italy. There are similar confections made in the Philippines.
Roscón de Reyes
This is a very Spanish tradition extended to some countries of Latino America and south of France.
As a Spanish myself I lived this tradition since I was a kid.
Basically the night of 5th of January we believe that the 3 Kings “wise Man” will travel to all our houses and will leave gifts for all the kids. The roscon in eaten in the morning after opening all gifts as a breakfast paired with a hot chocolate.
The Roscon have a small figure hidden inside, either of a baby Jesus or little toys for children, as well as the more traditional dry fava bean. Whoever finds the figure is crowned “king” or “queen” of the celebration, whereas whoever finds the bean has to pay for the next year’s roscón or Epiphany party.
Eggnog & Mulled wine
While culinary historians debate its exact lineage, most agree eggnog originated from the early medieval Britain “posset,” a hot, milky, ale-like drink. By the 13th century, monks were known to drink a posset with eggs and figs. Milk, eggs, and sherry were foods of the wealthy, so eggnog was often used in toasts to prosperity and good health.
Eggnog became tied to the holidays when the drink hopped the pond in the 1700s. American colonies were full of farms—and chickens and cows—and cheaper rum, a soon-signature ingredient. Mexico adopted the very eggnog varietal “rompope,” and Puerto Rico enjoys the “coquito,” which adds coconut milk. The English name’s etymology however remains a mystery. Some say “nog” comes from “noggin,” meaning a wooden cup, or “grog,” a strong beer. By the late 18th century, the combined term “eggnog” stuck.
Mulled wine is a beverage usually made with red wine along with various mulling spices and sometimes raisins. It is served hot or warm and is alcoholic, although there are non-alcoholic versions of mulled wine.
Glühwein (roughly translated as “glowing-wine”, from the temperature the wine is heated to) is popular in German-speaking countries and in the region of Alsace in France. It is a traditional beverage offered during the Christmas holidays. In Alsace Christmas markets, it is traditionally the only alcoholic beverage served. The oldest documented Glühwein tankard is attributed to Count John IV of Katzenelnbogen, a German nobleman who was the first grower of Riesling grapes. This gold-plated lockable silver tankard is dated to c. 1420.
Panettone & Stollen
In the early 20th century, two enterprising Milanese bakers began to produce panettone in large quantities in the rest of Italy. In 1919, Angelo Motta started producing his eponymous brand of cakes. It was also Motta who revolutionised the traditional panettone by giving it its tall domed shape by making the dough rise three times, for almost 20 hours, before cooking, giving it its now-familiar light texture. The recipe was adapted shortly after by another baker, Gioacchino Alemagna, around 1925, who also gave his name to a popular brand that still exists today. The stiff competition between the two that then ensued led to industrial production of the cake. Nestlé took over the brands together in the late 1990s, but Bauli, an Italian bakery company based in Verona, has acquired Motta and Alemagna from Nestlé.[
By the end of World War II, panettone was cheap enough for anyone and soon became the country’s leading Christmas sweet. Lombard immigrants to Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico, Venezuela and Brazil also brought their love of panettone, and panettone is enjoyed for Christmas with hot cocoa or liquor during the holiday season, which became a mainstream tradition in those countries. In some places, it replaces the King cake.
The Advent season was a time of fasting, and bakers were not allowed to use butter, only oil, and the cake was tasteless and hard.[ In the 15th century, in medieval Saxony (in central Germany, north of Bavaria and south of Brandenburg), the Prince Elector Ernst (1441–1486) and his brother Duke Albrecht (1443–1500) decided to remedy this by writing to the Pope in Rome. The Saxon bakers needed to use butter, as oil in Saxony was expensive, hard to come by, and had to be made from turnips.
Pope Nicholas V (1397–1455), in 1450 denied the first appeal. Five popes died before finally, Pope Innocent VIII, (1432–1492)[ in 1490 sent a letter to the Prince, known as the “Butter-Letter” which granted the use of butter (without having to pay a fine), but only for the Prince-Elector and his family and household.
Others were also permitted to use butter, but on the condition of having to pay annually 1/20th of a gold Gulden to support the building of the Freiberg Minster. The ban on butter was removed when Saxony became Protestant.
Over the centuries, the bread changed from being a simple, fairly tasteless “bread” to a sweeter bread with richer ingredients, such as marzipan, although traditional Stollen is not as sweet, light and airy as the copies made around the world.
I hope you enjoyed the article and If you are looking for a place to buy all the Christmas pastries, goodies, turkey and Goose in Dubai, I highly recommend Brothaus Bakery Bistro.
It’s a German Bistro located at Steigenberger Hotel Dubai that makes amazing freshly baked items!