We're coming to the end of our daily Christmastide posts, and I'm thinking back to Christmas dinner.
We all talk about a "traditional Christmas" but what is that, exactly? In the lead-up to Christmas there was a discussion on facebook that I found so interesting. It was a discussion of what people were planning to serve for Christmas Dinner, and the variety of dishes to be served amazed me.
In particular I was surprised by the variety of desserts, because to me, there is only one dessert possible for Christmas Dinner and that's Christmas pudding — also called plum pudding, though there are no plums in it. That's not to say there can't be other desserts served as well, but I've always considered Christmas pudding to be essential to any Christmas feast. It's still widely served in Australia (here's an article about it) and I assume also in the UK, but it did surprise me that none of the Americans in that discussion were having Christmas pudding at all — and that many had never even tasted it.
For me, plum pudding is the quintessential dish in any Christmas dinner — even when we were camping at Christmas (which is in the summer in Australia), Mum would still boil the pudding over a campfire, and serve it up hot with cream or custard and for the adults, brandy butter. For days later we'd eat the remainder cold, served in slivers, like a dense, dark fruit cake — rich and delicious.
A Christmas pudding is made of dried fruit (sultanas, currants etc) shreds of preserved citrus peel, flour, sugar, butter and eggs, mixed up well in advance and boiled in a cloth. These days most of us buy our puds pre-made, in a tin or a cloth, and we can microwave them instead of boiling them for hours. A lot of people still make their own and the recipes are a family tradition. It's a very rich mixture. When I was a kid, silver coins were hidden inside the pudding, which added to the excitement.
Side-story here: my first car was a mini, and one time when I went down to stay at my sister's my little nephew (aged about 8) wanted to earn some money, so I told him if he washed the car and cleaned it out, he could keep any loose change he found in it. As it turned out there was quite a lot —I'd forgotten I'd dropped my purse —and there were shrieks of glee as he pounced on coin after coin. At one stage we heard him yell, "This car's better than plum pudding!" Which shows you what he liked best about Christmas pudding.
Of course, every family has its own traditions, and in our multicultural societies, people bring a range of cultural traditions with them and they get merged and adapted. But it struck me as interesting that while I (from the outside looking in) could work out what a traditional Thanksgiving menu would be, Christmas was quite another matter.
So I thought I'd take this opportunity to ask — if you celebrate Christmas, what did you have for Christmas dinner? And what about Christmas pudding? Or do you have some other traditional or non-traditional dish? What for you is a quintessential Christmas dish? Or are you completely over Christmas and don't want to hear another thing about it for another year?