A few years ago, I was trying to 'veganize the holidays' and thought it would be a fun task to try to conjure up family recipes and put together a little recipe/cook book to refer to and pass down for generations to come...I came up with only a few recipes during my quest to try and veganize tradition (oh the irony...) but I'm re-inspired again this holiday season!
I started thinking about what is the actual traditional Thanksgiving dinner, since it's become so fancy over the recent years...and what do people really serve on Christmas? Do they eat a dinner on Christmas Eve or is it on the actual Day? Or do they do what we did and usually just have a fun breakfast after we opened our presents? What is the American Tradition of the Holidays? What have those, who celebrate Christmas, been doing all these years?
A quick little Wikipedia search shed some light, and I thought I might share it with you, if you're like me and you love food and celebration of family and love!:)
Thanksgiving. The first Feast happened in 1961 between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag at Plymouth County, right down the street from us Cape Codders! Naturally, they feasted on their locally sourced food. To my surprise the menu included many things that I wouldn't have thought to be associated with the Thanksgiving table.
They ate: turkey, waterfowl (geese, duck), venison, fish, lobster, clams, berries, fruit, pumpkin and squash....really?!
It goes on to tell how it's changed, and based on different cultures, you might see cranberry sauce, gravy, stuffing, green beans/casserole, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, corn, dumplings or noodles, deviled eggs, sauerkraut (in Baltimore), cornbread (in the south or new england), peas and carrots, bread rolls, rutabegas or turnips and a salad. Pie is often mincemeat, apple, pumpkin, sweet potato, or pecan (my fave!). Interesting, huh?
A few other interesting tidbits being that the Southerners, or African Americans may serve baked mac and cheese and collard greens at their table, while Italian-Americans may serve lasagna, Who knew!? (not me obvs)
As for Christmas, the dishes tend to be similar to Thanksgiving in America. Wikipedia provides an extensive list of all the different countries' traditional menus. In America, it is common to see:
The main dish being a Christmas Ham, (This came from the Germanic peoples as a tribute to harvest and fertility, and later was popularized by the Catholic Church as a test of truthful conversion from Judaism...hmph!), turkey, duck/goose/pheasant, oyster stew, fish (from the feast of the seven fishes originating from the Italian culture, celebrating on Christmas Eve), dungeness Crab in California, and prime Rib.
Side dishes include: the traditional meso-american (spanish) tamale, stuffing (southern influence), plum (christmas) pudding originating from England, cranberry sauce, mashed potato, lefse ( a traditional norwegian flatbread eaten in Wisconsin and Minnesota), and mixed nuts.
Beverages include: champagne, apple cider, eggnog, hot chocolate, hot buttered rum (eww and random...dates back to the colonial days...) and a Tom and Jerry Christmas Cocktail (from Britain, it is a variant of eggnog adding rum and brandy and served hot, drunk in Wisconsin and Minnesota).
On to desserts...: custard, candy canes, chocolate fudge, christmas cookies, fruitcakes (originating in ancient Rome), gingerbread, persimmon pudding (a traditional American dessert, similar to English Christmas pudding), russian tea cakes (a pastry commonly eaten in England consisting of wedding cake, butterballs, or italian wedding cookies), and an array of pies ~ apple, mincemeat, sweet potato, pumpkin, and pecan!
So there you have it, cultures, traditions and food to celebrate family, love and connectedness!
My contribution for our Christmas Eve dinner at my bf's family will be a 'new and improved healthy version' of pecan pie from the paleo mom blog. :
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- Combine all ingredients and work together to form a dough with your hands.
- Place the dough into a 8″ deep dish or 9″ pie plate. Channel your inner playdough-loving child, and pat and push the dough to fully line the pie plate (this is a type of pie crust called a push crust, because you “push” it into place rather than rolling it out). Make a nice edge.
- Bake crust for 15 minutes, until starting to turn golden brown. Remove from the oven.
Ingredients (pie filling):
- 3/4 cup honey
- 3/4 cup Grade B maple syrup
- 6 Tbsp ghee, unsalted butter, or lard (you could also use palm shortening but ghee or lard have great flavor for this pie)
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 4 whole eggs
- 1 egg yolk (leftover from making your crust!)
- 2 cups chopped pecans
- 1-1 1/4 cup pecan halves for the top (optional)
- Preheat oven to 375F. Toast pecans on a rimmed baking sheet for 5-8 minutes (you can do this while your pie crust is cooking), until fragrant (the pecan pieces take about 5 minutes, and the pecan halves take a little longer).
- Once the pecans and pie crust are out of the oven, reduce the heat to 350F.
- Heat honey and maple syrup in a small saucepot over medium-high heat until it comes to a rapid simmer.
- Meanwhile, beat the eggs and egg yolk together. Temper the eggs (which means adding a little bit of the very hot honey and syrup to the eggs while you stir them quickly) then add the eggs to honey and remove from the heat.
- Stir in the vanilla, salt, and ghee (or other fat of choice), and chopped pecans. Pour into pie crust.
- Arrange pecan halves to cover the top of the pie. Place pie in the oven and back for 20-25 minutes, until set (you’ll know it’s set when you jiggle the pie a little and the middle doesn’t wobble like jello–how long this takes depends a bit on whether your crust or filling cooled a bit before getting it into the oven and just how hot your honey got when you brought it to a simmer, so it could take as long as 30 minutes).
- Let the pie cool completely before serving. Enjoy!
I hope you all enjoy eating, drinking and being merry this holiday!
In good health, happiness and love, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!