The Christmas tree fell this week, the inviting wreaths have been laid away, and most of us have refrigerators filled with small bakkies of strange vegetables that will never be identified, much less pulled out on January 16 to supplement one of the budget meals, we are reduced to then.
What’s with the Christmas food? Among the documentaries I watch when I really should be out walking or practicing pilates or anything other than lifting a glass are those that have festive customs around the world. They have one thing in common: the menu is complicated. God forbid you just have to rattle a stew or a braai with a salad next to it.
It has to do with custom and tradition, the more complicated the better. It’s not as simple as blaming Prince Albert of England or Charles Dickens for inventing Christmas. The former introduced a Christmas tree, or several, to his great fry, and the latter wrote A Christmas song. They did not know what they were doing, but before we knew it, we were decorating Christmas trees and giving our neighbors a slap in the face. Then there were Christmas cards, no doubt influenced by Dickens book illustrations, Tiny Tim’s little face encouraged us to be sentimental at all costs, The Ghost of Christmas Past scared us all to part with lots of money, and tinsel became a growth industry .
Long before that, the traditions lurked just below the surface. Even the Puritans arrived in America and held Thanksgiving, thereby terrorizing a turkey population that had hitherto been undisturbed.
The advantage of having Irish grandparents and a mother was that I found out pretty quickly that much of this was purely pagan. Back then, we knew that nature had the responsibility. Around December 25th (technically December 21st) the days started to get longer again and the bitter midwinter was celebrated by bringing evergreen branches in, lighting candles and generally cradling until one fell with food and mead or whatever. was. The party was always with us, long live the party. Soon people were trying to outdo each other at the pot, and next time the Christians declared that it was the birthday of Jesus Christ to prevent the Gentiles from dominating the winter solstice. The story of Christmas and the here-ending hour.
Fast forward to today and the filled shelves and refrigerators in the supermarkets. Or online. I do not shop for groceries, so I have no idea where it comes from.
I find it all quite alarming. That’s why I’m happy to find a store in the UK when we lived there in the early 2000s – Iceland. Many of you will be familiar with it, but it was my first experience of a store where everything is frozen. Everything. I need to be clear, CLEAR and frozen. I walked past it on the High Street in Chichester where we lived and decided to go in and investigate. There were rows and rows of freezers with all this packaged food. I stood in there so long that I was warned to stroll and had to buy some eggs to prove my good intentions. Yes, besides the wonderful pre-cooked frozen stuff, the fresh eggs sold, probably my favorite source of protein.
I was at home.
That Christmas and for several subsequent was a celebrity named Kerry Katona Island’s face. She was in all these ads, saying she was a mom and a busy one, and look at this – I can buy all my Christmas food, chicken, turkey, gammon, ready to thaw. Even the Christmas pillows and minced pies were frozen and ready to roll.
“That’s why mothers go to Iceland,” Kerry shouted. There were mini-gateaux, shrimp skewers, rolled turkey, creamy cakes…. a festive party.
I had never heard of Kerry Katona, who turned out to have been a singer in a band called Atomic Kitten, but then I do not recognize any music after around 1969, so that is hardly surprising. Her current claim to fame was that she was the queen of the jungle, the reigning one I’m a celebrity…. Get me out of here! winner.
Here is one of the famous Kerry Katona Christmas ads. Everything you see (except the characters) was previously frozen:
Smart girl, the Kerry. Not only had she survived the jungle with only a toothbrush and scarf at hand, but she knew how to buy her Christmas party from Iceland and serve it without being chained to the kitchen table for several days.
I tried to suggest we go the same way, but The Foodie had none of it. I could not even get him to Iceland let alone entice him to buy the smartly wrapped food. We had a lot of eggs that Christmas, but then again, like hats and shoes, you can not get too many of them.
I’m not saying I do not appreciate the Christmas party when I sit down to it. I ate everything that was put in front of me, and then shared chocolate bites with my grandson, now three years old, in the hope that he would remember me happily despite the fact that I was rubbish changing diapers and playing football .
We were surrounded by excellent chefs on the festive days and the tables groaned. All my marching up and down the streets of Cradock with headsets on in the weeks before did not prevent all the work from being undone within hours of me leaving home.
We have been doing this for thousands of years now and for thousands more, will party and listen to festive music, whether it is pagan or Christian or whatever belief system you now follow.
It is in our DNA to frolic and celebrate on high days. And maybe less time in the kitchen and more on the frolic would be in order.
Iceland is just another name for the North Pole, right? Now to convince The Foodie. DM / TGIFood