Ten foods that mean Christmas
When I was younger, they came in individual 6oz bottles. Now you have to make your own.
9) Mince pies
I should love mince pies more, but they're generally too sweet, which means you can't have more than one, especially if it's topped with whipped cream, in which case what's the point of Christmas, anyway?
8) Turkish Delight
Blah, blah, Narnia, White Witch, blah. Whatevs. For me, Turkish Delight came in two varieties: the Fry's version, which was the everyday candy bar; and the special stuff we had at Christmas. Sultan's. Everything about it was exotic: the six-sided box, the clouds of powdered sugar, the perfect cubes of rose-petal-flavored jelly.
Even its consumption seemed special; this wasn't some cheap candy you could chow down. There was a ritual: carefully pull back the wax paper, pick up a cube between thumb and forefinger (pinky extended), and gently tap off the excess sugar. And then chow down.
7) Ham sandwiches
Very particular to my mom's side of the family, this one. Every Boxing Day, we'd gather at my Aunty Molly's house to catch up and get slightly tipsy and watch the Big Movie Event (whichever blockbuster had come out two years earlier) on TV. And while the dining room table was heavy with food, I had a particular soft spot for the sandwiches: soft white bread, thickly spread butter and slices of salty, thin-sliced baked ham. To this day, a good ham sandwich takes me back to watching Star Wars with my cousins and drinking Blue Lagoons until I had Smurf lips.
6) Arroz con gandules
Our first Christmas together, The Boy and I lived in a tiny apartment with an even tinier kitchen. Despite the Russian roulette-like quality of the stove, he made pasteles (Goya frozen, but still), plantains, and rice and pigeon peas. Even if I weren't crazy for him, I'd still have eaten the whole thing. Arroz con gandules always reminds me of that Christmas. Our tree was a string of lights around a coatrack, but heat was included in the rent and it was warm enough that we didn't have to wear very much ...
5) Egg nog
In my lame attempts to be healthier, I've tried suggesting to The Boy that we replace the traditional full-fat Nog with a sugar-free soy-milk variety. He threatens to have me certified. Get it now before the stupid government takes it away.
Discovered on a trip to Berlin in January 1993, these chocolate-covered squares contain layers of gingerbread, apricot jelly and marzipan. Cardullo's usually stocks them over Christmas. They are necessary. That is all.
A more recent addition to the list, but no less lovely. I'm not sure when The Boy and I made Stollen part of our complete Christmas breakfast, but now it is. We usually pick up a loaf imported from Germany, but in the past I have successfully made it from scratch. Not this year, though: my attempts at baking (two with homemade marzipan, two without) were foiled by my oven's crazy thermostat and ended with four loaves burned black on the bottom. That which I could salvage will make insanely rich bread pudding. And I'll buy someone else's loaf for Christmas.
2) Christmas pudding
This almost made it to first place—as edible symbols of Christmas go, it's certainly one of my favorites—were it not for the time it takes to cook. Traditionally, Christmas pudding comes in a bowl, which you place in a pan of water and boil for hours (literally, if you make your pudding from scratch). These days, of course, it's expected that you'll nuke it in the microwave; the Walker's pudding we're having doesn't even include instructions for boiling.
1) Christmas cake
Naturally. And as I've mentioned before, I'm not talking about the American abomination that pretends to be fruitcake. I mean a dark, buttery, booze-soaked slab of beauty, fragrant and moist, topped with marzipan and Royal icing.
And if you're still not hungry, please to check out this 2006 ad for venerable British store Marks and Spencers' Christmas goodies: