Why is it that some Christmas foods…
have become beloved traditions while others have fallen out of favor and landed on the Isle of Misfit…Recipes?
Take mincemeat pie, figgy pudding, and fruitcake for example. Despite heated debates over fruitcake in particular, these earthy, spiced desserts show up on dessert tables around the world. And if you haven’t tried them, you should! Quite a few folks swear they taste like Christmas itself! Some past Christmas treats have even found favor outside of the holidays, like animal crackers. The string on the box? Its original purpose was to hang on the tree.
On the other hand, many other foods have wandered into the swamp of extinction, and we have to say we are relieved. Remember those savory gelatin molds layered with eggs, meats, and fish? Even the fruity Jell-O creations were suspect with their layers of lumpy cottage cheese, soggy nuts and shredded carrots. The stuff of nightmares!
And what about the Christmas goose? Back in the 1843, Charles Dickens made goose the Christmas feast of choice. But today goose has all but vanished from our Christmas tables. Our modern palates are accustomed to tender, farm-raised poultry, and the gamey dark meat of wild goose can be an acquired taste. And cooking it to perfection is a real art, so it’s not surprising this noble bird has fallen out of favor.
Then there was the “turducken,” a turkey-stuffed-with-a-duck-stuffed-with-a-chicken. And who can forget the Noel ham log (ham salad spelled out in NOEL) or SPAM® cut out in the shape of a Christmas tree? Were they craft projects or appetizers…no one was ever really sure!
For my family, our recipe for a delicious and memorable Christmas celebration is simple: One part tradition, one part taste, and a dash of trendiness. Even so, I’m sure one day my kids will look back and laugh (or grimace) about some of the foods that grace our table at Christmas. By then, maybe it will be time to revisit the virtues of Jell-O salad (without the cottage cheese!).
ELIOT ORTON for The Orton Family