CHRISTMAS FOOD AND DRINK
Cinnamon is a popular spice used in many Christmas favorites but it isn't just a simple flavoring spice.
Cinnamon comes from the bark of a small Southeast Asian evergreen tree and
It is one of the oldest remedies in traditional Chinese medicine, prescribed for a number of complaints such as diarrhea, chills, influenza and intestinal worms.
Frumenty is a traditional Christmas meal from the middle ages made princibly from Kibbled or cracked wheat admittedly this dish was more popular amongst the have not's than the have's.
Plum pudding is a famous and almost typically English dessert.
It got its name of plum pudding in the 17th century because plum was one of the ingredients.
But quite why they settled on plum pudding as the plum was only one of more than two dozen of the finely chopped ingredients folded into the dough.
The finished steamed pudding adorned with a sprig of holly would be brought flaming to the table and served with great ceremony.
The Stollen is a type of German Christmas cake which is a kind of sweet bread, enriched with a various dried fruits and nuts and covered with icing sugar.
German Families and bakeries alike treasured the own secret recipes for the Stollen and all claimed to have a secret ingredient, details of which would be handed down through the generations.
The shape of the Stollen is like a loaf of bread and is supposed to symbolize the baby Jesus Christ wrapped in swaddling clothes.
Gluhwein is a traditional German mulled wine served containing cloves to warm against the bitter winter days.
It is traditionally served at the many German outdoor Christmas markets to keep the customers warm and full of Christmas cheer.
Most brewers will produce a robust and full bodied winter ale in time for the Christmas festivities.
It will be called Winter Warmer, Christmas ale, Winter ale or any combination of all the above.
In the 21st century when all the bars are stocked with many and various insipid imported lagers and the infamous Alco pops I just hope the brewers continue producing the traditional Christmas tipple.
A stuffed turkey still occupies pride of place on many a traditional Christmas table.
The Turkey was first brought to Europe from Mexico by the Spanish in the 16th century.
It was very quickly domesticated in Spain, France and England and soon dislodged the goose as the traditional festive bird.
OUR GOOSE IS COOKED
By all accounts the eating of Goose at Christmas as part of the festivities came about because on Christmas Eve 1588 queen Elizabeth I was dining on Goose at Greenwich palace when the long awaited news reached her that the Spanish Armada had been defeated.
Relieved and delighted she decreed that roast goose should be served at Christmas to mark the historic event.
It was her father Henry VIII who is widely regarded to be the first person known to eat Turkey on Christmas day.
THE CHRISTMAS CAKE
Christmas fruit cake is derived from the famous English Christmas or plum pudding.
The recipe was much simpler with fewer ingredients although it included large quantities of candied fruit, raisins, dates and nuts and is generally prepared long in advance of Christmas and is liberally laced with Brandy.
Like plum pudding it would originally have been flaming when served but in time this changed and soon the cakes were being decorated with marzipan and icing instead.
THE HUMBLE MINCE PIE
The mince pie was originally oblong in shape which was supposed to symbolize the cradle of Christ.
The pie was covered with a thick crusty pastry cover which had an indentation in the center in which a small doll also made from pastry supposed to be the Christ child was placed.
The original mince pie was filled with minced lamb's tongue and mutton.
It wasn't until returning medieval Crusaders brought back spices from the East which replaced the meat filling.
It was also at this time the pies became the familiar round shape.
Even though few people are aware of their origins the mince pie remains one of the most popular Christmas treats.
THE BOARS HEAD
Serving a roasted boar's head was for many years associated with Christmas feasting in England.
It probably harks back to the Norse custom of sacrificing a boar at Yuletide in honor of the Norse god Freyr.
A more amusing telling of the story relates to a student at Oxford's Queen's College who was attacked one Christmas Day by a wild boar.
As the Boar charged the poor student was armed with nothing more lethal than a copy of Aristotle, so with all his strength he thrust the book down the boar's throat killing it in its tracks.
The student however wanted his book back so he cut off the animal's head which he took back to the college where it was served for Christmas dinner amidst much pomp and ceremony.
Wassail, which was much liked by the English, accompanied hearty Christmas meals.
The word 'wassail' dates back to the pre-Christian times and practices and is derived from the Anglo Saxon phrase waes hael which meant "be thou well" or "good health.
Originally, wassail was a beverage made of mulled ale, curdled cream, roasted apples, nuts, eggs, and spices and it was served for the purpose of enhancing the general merriment of the season.
A toast was traditionally offered with a drink at regular intervals and normally with little or no reason.
It was important that after well wishers had shared in the spirit of the toast and taken a sip that they top up the bowl.
The wassail bowl had to remain full from Christmas Eve to Twelfth Night
And much care was taken to ensure that it did in order to ensure the continuity of good cheer throughout this festive season.
The wassail bowl would be carried from room to room often accompanied by the singing of festive songs which is perhaps why the early practise of carol singing was referred to as 'wassailing'.
Part of the Wassailing ritual was more concerned in seeing nature renew itself in the spring and the belief in its ability to magically bestow fertility on one and all.