In the Christian tradition, celebrations such as Christmas and Easter always involve lots and lots of delicious food! In America, the Christmas food tradition is as well engrained as it is in any other Christian culture. However, in recent decades, with more and more exotic foods from other cultures now readily available at our local grocery stores, many of us have begun to integrate a new sort of Christmas food tradition in to the Christmas family meal. Here, we take a look at some of these foods which are new to our palates, but still indescribably delicious, foods which may spark your imagination enough to include on this year’s menu.
As Christmas comes closer, you may notice the grocer’s ads featuring turkeys and hams by the truckload, with good reason. Both these meats are long-standing standards in the American Christmas food tradition. However, you may also notice that organically raised geese are now gaining a prominent place as well, usually available as a special order item. If you’ve never cooked a goose, you ought to consider one of these succulent, tasty birds as an alternative. The first time I cooked a Christmas goose, it was with some trepidation – Would I ruin this bird? How about making gravy? How to know when it was done? Aargh! Stuffing? However, with a little consultation with the butcher, I buffed up my courage and decided to go for it. Never had I served such an elegant, absolutely delicious bird! The goose thereafter became one of our family’s Christmas food traditions. Much tastier and rich than any turkey I’d ever tasted.
If you grew up in an American household, you could probably count on a big bowl of sweet potatoes being served, topped with melted marshmallows. As a kid, I was quite particular about what I would and wouldn’t eat, and sweet potatoes was definitely on my ‘no way’ list. When I was in my twenties, a neighbor showed me a different way of preparing this dish. She added a half can of unsweetened, frozen orange juice and a couple of teaspoons of powdered ginger to the cooked mashed potatoes, then baked as usual. The difference was purely astonishing. This simple ‘fix’ took away that cloying sweetness I’d always objected to, and I became an adherent, gaining a new and modified Christmas food tradition we still fix each Christmas.
The same goes for cranberry sauce, definitely an American Christmas food tradition. While cranberry sauce was on my list of ‘can-dos’, it, too, became infinitely more exciting when doused with a few tablespoons of orange juice and just a touch of nutmeg. In this case, the orange juice and nutmeg lent just the right touch of sweetness, where the dish was previously lacking.
Should you find your usual Christmas menu a bit tired, consider some slight modifications, borrowing from different cultures. For example, instead of the usual plain buns, try substituting a loaf of Artisan bread, dressed up with your favorite avant-garde topping. Instead of plain butter or margarine, try olive oil and garlic, brushed lightly over the bread. Much healthier, tastier and interesting.
The point here is that by searching out new food combinations and dishes from other cultures, you may find that your Christmas food traditions will change – and for the better! Bon Appetite! Merry Christmas to you and yours!