Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Christmas Lunch

In the UK, we have a very firm idea of what a Christmas lunch/dinner entails. The essentials are turkey, sausage wrapped in bacon, stuffing, roast potatoes, roast parsnips, shed-loads of gravy, carrots and brussel sprouts; all followed by Christmas pudding with brandy butter. Optional items include ham, boiled potatoes, sausagemeat stuffing, chestnut stuffing, bread sauce and an additional vegetable of choice. Obviously, you also have to include the mandatory Christmas crackers.

Otherwise, it's just not a Christmas meal.

Here's an extract from the TV series Bottom, starring Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson (Source):

EDDIE: God, seven o'clock. Another twenty-seven hours of Christmas to go. I don't thing I'm gonna survive it, I'll have to blank out in front of the telly.

RICHIE: You hold that finger right there young man, no-one in this house watches the telly until the Queen's Speech!

EDDIE: But it's Noel's Christmas Family Video Accidents!

RICHIE: I don't care, we're English here and we're going to do Christmas properly. Alright? Well, unless there's a Bond film on, obviously. [yanks the cord out of the television] Okay? Now let's keep it Christmassy. Right now look, there's only five hours until lunch, I've got to get my sprouts on. Don't want them all crunchy.

EDDIE: Not sprouts! I hate sprouts!

RICHIE: Oh will you stop whinging Eddie! Nobody likes sprouts.

EDDIE: Then why are we having them then?

RICHIE: Because it's Christmas! Oh look, we've got guests coming, remember? So I'd better get on with my turkey.

EDDIE: What are you going to do with it?

RICHIE: Well, it's the season of goodwill and peace on Earth, so I thought I'd chop both its feet off, rip out its innards, strip it, shove an onion up its arse and bung it in a very hot place for four hours until its completely burnt.

EDDIE: Fair enough.

Similarly, in the US, there are certain things that seem to be mandatory as part of a Thanksgiving meal -- turkey, mashed yams, pumpkin pie and pecan pie. As I'm not going to be in the US for Christmas, what I'd like to know (if you're an American reading this) is, are there any other items that you would consider to be necessary for a Thanksgiving meal that I have not yet experienced? Are the required contents of the Thanksgiving meal set in stone (as they are in the UK) or is there a level of flexibility?

My other question is this -- is the fare at a traditional American Christmas meal the same as the fare at a Thanksgiving meal, or does a traditional Christmas meal in the US more resemble the British Christmas meal?

By the way, the Christmas episode of Bottom (Holy) is my favourite episode. It's the episode where Eddie drank all the brandy, so they had to have "vodka margarine ... spiced ... up with a couple of bottles of hairspray" to make it flammable. (By the way, do you flambee the Christmas pudding in the US?) It's also the episode where Ritchie thinks that he's the Mother of God. It's well worth a watch.


Stephen C. Carlson said...

The contents of the Christmas dinner in the U.S. is considerably more flexible than those of the Thanksgiving meal. In my experience, turkey is not unheard of, but a Christmas ham or a pork roast is more common because, I think, people just had turkey just the month before.

My wife's family is from Estonia, so we also feast on the traditional fare of that country, including sült (pork jelly) with horseradish, verivorst (black pudding), Matjas herring, smoked eel, etc. I suspect that Christmas for most Americans of recent immigration also tends towards the cuisine of the old country.

Viola said...

This is a very interesting point -- America is a land of racial and cultural diversity. Indeed the same is true of England.

Mark and I once went to a church's Christmas Dinner. The entire church consisted of West Indians and their British-born descendents. Mark was the only white face to be seen (I don't class myself as being "white"). The Christmas meal we had there was the usual fare -- turkey, roast potatoes etc, but with the added touch of jerk chicken and "rice and peas" (actually rice and kidney beans).

By the way, I absolutely love jerk chicken with "rice and peas".

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Julie said...

For the past few years I've had Christmas lunch with my husbands family. It was a bit strange for this southern girl to go from turkey, ham, cornbread dressing, rice, gravy, pecan pie, sweet potato pie and christmas cookies to the Christmas lunch of baked ziti, meatballs, Italian sausage and brociole of my husband's Italian family. But it is a nice change from having all the turkey stuff only a month before. :)

See Me Repeat Me said...

Hi, just wandered onto your blog and have been finding it interesting reading. I'd like to reply to a lot more, but I'll let this be my introduction.

Stephen is right -- people's cultural traditions and differences will cause a difference in what's on the menu for a "traditional" Christmas. My family is of predominantly Mexican heritage, so we'll have the traditional fare from that culture handy -- corn husk tamales, filled with either shredded pork or beans (or beans & cheese for those who like cheese), rice, beans, salsa, and menudo, which is this spicy stew made with the stomach lining of cows and white hominy, and flavored with pigs' feet. Most Americanized families also serve ham and candied yams, and there's also all kinds of desserts on hand too. But I do not associate a "traditional turkey dinner" with Christmas, connecting it instead with Thanksgiving. And I consider myself just about as American as one can be.