The history of the Christmas Dinner
What you have for Christmas dinner can differ from family to family, but traditionally turkey is served with stuffing, roast potatoes and an array of fresh vegetables, particularly the most controversial vegetable, the Brussels spout. If you’re not already stuffed from dinner, pudding consists of mince pies and traditional Christmas pudding. But why do we eat these foods on Christmas Day?
Take a look at the history of the Christmas dinner and you might be surprised at what you will find out.
The Victorians introduced us to turkey and gave us Christmas as we know it today. During the 19th Century, wealthy families began tucking in to turkey on Christmas Day, and once Queen Victoria and the Royal family gave the royal nod, everyone else followed suit. Today, over 90% of families have turkey, as their centrepiece on Christmas Day, beef and lamb are the most popular alternatives to turkey.
Stuffing was originally called ‘farce’ or ‘forcemeat’ and consisted of a mixture of vegetables, herbs, spices, nuts, cereal, liver and brains. The Romans found the name repulsive, therefore renamed it ‘dressing’, and to this day some people around the world still refer to stuffing as ‘dressing’. A few years on and minus the brains, there is a wide variety of stuffing’s to choose from for example vegetarian options like, rice, tofu and fruit, but the most popular is sausage meat.
We can thank the Victorians for bringing us roast potatoes. Potatoes were a key feature in their Christmas dinner, but they were more likely to be mashed instead of roasted. Today, roast potato methods vary, some households enjoy their potatoes cooked in olive oil and herbs, while others cooked in goose fat or dripping or some enjoy time saving shop brought ones. Whichever you prefer no Christmas dinner is complete without the humble potato.
Brussels sprouts are the most controversial vegetable and have divided the nation for years. Whether you love them or hate then the humble spout has clung on to its place on our Christmas plate for more than 400 years. Originating in Belgium, sprouts first became popular in the 16th century in the Netherlands before spreading to French and British gardens.
Dating back to the medieval times, Mince Pies did actually contain meat. When returning, European crusaders brought Middle Eastern recipes which contained meats, fruits, and spices; early mince pies were also known as mutton pie, shred pie and Christmas Pie. Thankfully, by the mid-19th century mince pies evolved in to how we know them; containing fruit, nuts and spices. An urban myth states that Oliver Cromwell made it illegal for people to eat mince pies on Christmas Day, in a bid to tackle gluttony.
The life of the Christmas pudding began in Medieval England, when the Roman Catholic Church decreed that the 25th Sunday after Trinity, that everyone should make a pudding using thirteen ingredients, to represent Christ and the twelve apostles. Every member of the family would stir the mixture and make a wish, which is now called Stir-up Sunday. In some households the elders, hide coins in the pudding mixture and if you are lucky enough to find a coin then you will receive wealth, health and happiness for the coming year.
It can be hard to please everyone’s taste buds on Christmas Day, however we have three delicious recipes on the way which are guaranteed to put an end to the squabbling this year. Over the next few weeks look out for our Mince Pie recipe, our Sprouts with Bacon, Chestnuts and Garlic Crumbs recipe and the guide to cooking the perfect Christmas Turkey.