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Top 10 Festive Food And Drink Treats
If you’re still reeling over the decision by Mars Wrigley to remove Bounty from some of its Celebrations boxes, then you may be relieved to know that other traditional Christmas foods are still going strong. Here are ten top festive food and drink treats we wouldn't be without...or would we?
This has been top of the Christmas food chain for over 500 years – reputedly since Henry VIII chose turkey for his Christmas dinner. Before then, we were having goose, pheasant, or even swan as the main course on the festive table.
Over time, families became bigger, and smaller birds were no longer enough to feed everybody. Farms began trotting out turkeys in ever greater numbers. By the 1950s, turkey was the first choice for three out of every four families across the UK, a figure unchanged today.
Each year we eat around 10 million turkeys at Christmas. Presumably, that’s not just on Christmas Day itself, but also in turkey sandwiches, risottos, curries and pies in the days that follow.
If you live in Tokyo, you might prefer a bargain bucket of chicken instead. Bizarre as it sounds, a Japanese advertising campaign some 40 years ago still prompts queues and advanced ticket sales for seats to eat fried chicken at KFC.
3. Mince Pies
We eat more than 300 million mince pies a year. Most of them are consumed in the weeks around Christmas.
Mince pies were originally known as Christmas Pyes, and made not only from mixed fruit and spices, but also from ‘minced meat’. They were a good way to clear leftover beef, mutton or lamb, which was chopped up and added into the content.
Originally they were larger than they are today, and oval in shape (possibly to represent Jesus’s crib). Some say they became smaller when Puritan laws under Oliver Cromwell were introduced to discourage any traditions that were perhaps previously associated with Catholic festivities.
4. Brussels Sprouts
Grown in Britain and Belgium (and many other places), Brussels sprouts became popular at Christmas in the UK in Victorian times. It seems they were regarded as mini cabbages, a notion surprisingly popular in those days.
Some people wouldn’t go near Brussels sprouts in a month of Sundays but not Linus Urbanec of Sweden. In November 2008 he set a world record when he ate 31 Brussel sprouts – in a minute.
5. Christmas Pudding...
Like mince pies, Christmas puddings weren’t always as sweet as they are today. As well as alcohol and fruit, they once contained actual minced meat as well.
You may wonder why Christmas pudding is sometimes known as plum pudding – yet never seems to contain any plums. That might be because Victorians used the word ‘plum’ to cover other fruit content, such as raisins and sultanas.
Nobody’s quite sure when brandy butter was invented – the first reference to it in the Oxford English Dictionary was as recent as 1939. It probably originated well before that: we do know for example that rum butter has been a Lake District speciality for over 200 years.
Do you like Christmas pudding? It’s something of a love-it-or-hate-it dish, with families often split down the middle between those for, and those against it.
6. ...or Yule Log
If Christmas Pudding isn’t your thing, then you are not alone. Around one in four people prefer the taste of a Yule Log instead.
The term ‘yule’ is a term for the winter solstice, celebrated in past times by Celts burning lavishly-decorated logs. In honour of this tradition, log-shaped cakes were created in countries like France, where the Bûche de Noël is a popular festive sweet treat.
7. Cranberry Sauce
Brits consume – or at least open – some 6.5 million jars of cranberry source over the Christmas period.
It may well be that we have the Americans to thank for it. It was first mentioned in a cookbook there back in 1796. It has accompanied turkeys on tables at Thanksgiving ever since but a recent survey suggested that nearly a third of Americans don’t even like it. The US version of cranberry sauce is much sweeter than the sharper taste we are used to in the UK.
8. Mulled Wine
Originating in Roman times as a warming drink in winter, it faded in popularity almost everywhere in Europe except Sweden and Germany, where variations of ‘glögg’ or ‘Glühwein’ continued for hundreds of years.
The drink seems to have undergone a major revival in the 1890s, the time when it became more closely associated with Christmas. Many different wine merchants created their own unique blends, just as many of us like to make our own version of mulled wine today.
The first time many people would have heard of gingerbread may well have been from the story of Hansel Gretel by the German Brothers Grimm. This seems to have inspired a Christmas tradition, where families started making their own gingerbread version of the house in the fairytale.
It seems likely that this came to Britain when Prince Albert, who was German, married Queen Victoria. Albert has been credited with bringing the Christmas tree into the mainstream in Britain. Depictions of the Prince, Queen and their children decorating a tree soon captured the imagination of the British public, inspiring some to dress their own trees with little biscuits made from gingerbread.
10. Glazed Ham
If you were a wealthy house or landowner in Tudor times, your Christmas table might well have featured a boar’s head as its centre-piece, honouring the boar Gullinbursti, which belonged to Freyr in Norse mythology.
Such ostentatious festive fare was not available to households of lesser means. Instead, glazed ham became a more practical and perhaps tastier alternative. The glaze might comprise honey, sugar and other spices, making for a sweet and salty staple over the holiday period.
Catering For Christmas - and any other time
Envibe does not supply any food or drink but is one of the UK’s leading trade suppliers of other catering and hospitality products. We provide restaurants, pubs, hotels, bars and transport operators with crockery, cutlery, glassware, consumables, janitorial supplies, clothing and kitchen equipment for Christmas, and any other occasion.