The Christmas menu: a tradition from generation to generation
The Christmas it's here. All families begin to dust off their best recipes for the most endearing dinners and meals throughout the year. Each typical sweet, each delicious bite, now acquires a new meaning ... it is about traditions handed down from generation to generation and that in spite of the time they continue as in force as the first day.
It's time to rediscover the true meaning of Christmas menu, a tradition from generation to generation. This culinary feast, for centuries, is part of our own roots.
With a fork in one hand and a sharp knife in the other we prepare to slice the Juicy Christmas turkey, that marinated or injected with wine, garnished with fruits or pieces of bread and nuts will do the honors, once again, to one of the most awaited nights of the year.
But why exactly turkey and not chicken? The truth is that every Christmas when we prepare the fillings and the oven, we do not usually think about these issues that may be really interesting. On this occasion, however, everything will be different ... we will try to discover some of the most hidden secrets of traditional and family dinners and Christmas meals.
The celebration of the winter solstice
If we try to find out, for example, where exactly this party comes from, we will find that although the celebration itself is very old, some ceremonies, rites and details are even more so. So, for example, since the year 744 a. of C., when the winter solstice was approaching (December 21), the Romans celebrated the birth of the sun with exchanges of gifts and lavish feasts.
This special day people went out to celebrate the hours of darkness began to be smaller. Seeing this situation Pope Gregory XIII established in the sixteenth century on December 25 as the date of the Birth of Jesus Christ. And all with a single purpose, to allow Christians to participate in the pagan celebrations associated with the "birth of the sun": "Jesus arrives as a sun, as the light of the world."
Replenishing forces at Christmas Eve dinner
As for the celebration accompanied by dinner, it is assumed that the most remote of its origins was due to the need that priests and faithful felt to regain their strength after the long liturgical service. Formerly this was celebrated on the day of the Nativity of the Lord and consisted of a total of thirteen psalms and three songs with a large number of hymns, antiphons, verses and responsories, which the people sang in chorus.
In the domestic celebrations, in countries like France or the countries of the North of Europe, the Christmas was celebrated with special wealth: in the majority of the occasions the companions opted for plates of meat of pig (perhaps for the purpose of the Christians of distinguish themselves from Jews, whose religion forbids them to eat this type of meat).
Also, they used to abound the sausages, cakes and sweets.
Christmas gastronomy in the world: the typical Christmas menu
In sixteenth-century Europe, the most widespread custom consisted in serving a large silver fountain and in it the head of a boar (pig) surrounded by a garland of rosemary and laurel. At the same time, he had an apple or lemon in his mouth.
Another typical dish of that time was the pheasant stuffed with spices (rosemary, thyme ...) and aromatic herbs, adorned with feathers and, occasionally, duck. Both birds have reached our days translated, especially in America, as the traditional turkey or turkey.
In South America and, mainly in Mexico, we find a whole compendium of uses and traditions. Most of the dishes consumed come from European cuisine (mainly Mediterranean) but with small nuances of American food. In this way we discover delicious dishes in which elements as diverse as the pre-Hispanic, Nordic, Saxon and, of course, Orientals come together.
Dishes characteristic of the Christmas menu
Spain also has its own traditions, of course. Each region usually produces recipes with special characteristics and flavors. And, just as happens in other areas of our planet, the varied and rich Spanish cuisine is the result of the influence of countless invasions and colonizations that occurred in the past.
Some of the most typical foods of Spanish cuisine are fritters, crystallized and covered candies, nougat and marzipan, fresh and dried fruits ...
During the Christmas Eve dinner, there are fish (baked sea bream, for example) or seafood (lobster, lobsters, etc.). And for the main course of the night they reserve, of course, meats such as the baked pork, the lamb or, of course, the turkey, accompanied or not by salad.
And finally, the sweets.Among those who always excel the marzipans of Toledo, the peladillas, the cocadas, the candied fruit and the essential nougat of Alicante.
The organization of the Christmas menu
The organization of a Christmas menu, today, can be a challenge. The most important thing in these cases is that the dinner is balanced. Which means that if you prepare a buffet the usual thing is to include a salad or vegetables, loin or ham, seafood and poultry, which is usually reduced to the typical turkey. And for dessert, a good fruit cake.
But these general lines accept all kinds of modifications. Not everything has to be seafood and big fish that night. Once again, everything will depend on the family budget.
A substitution that can offer great results is roasted ham, salad, turkey and bread.
Another combination could be ham, spaghetti and rice. Those who want to do without the turkey can always decant for delicious chicken breasts in sauce.
The best desserts and wines for the Christmas menu
For desserts, and although the most traditional is the fruit cake there are those who bet on substitutes such as "fudge", a delicious "chesse cake" (cheese cake) or a good "foot" of apple. The "strüdel" apple is also an incredible dessert, especially in these moments when apples are not too expensive. In addition, this delicious dish is ideal served alone or with a delicious cream ice cream, vanilla and chocolate on top.
Concerning wines and liquors there is also much to talk about and, above all, with care, to avoid Christmas excesses. As always the fish will be accompanied by their corresponding targets, reserving the reds for the meat. The liquors, at the end of the dinner and, the toast, of course, with a delicious cava.
Marisol Nuevo Espín