A Christmas Dinner

There’s a hustling and a bustling in the kitchen, voices can be raised over the clatter with questions and directions. There’s some level of stress involved, but one thing’s for sure, once it’s all over, it’s worth it. True, nowadays we have quick and easy ways of cooking, and our Christmas dinner tends to look the same, ham, potatoes, rolls, salad, fruit cake, and let’s not forget the pies, pecan, apple, cherry, and even pumpkin. But back in the old days, things took longer, and the Christmas dinner might have looked extremely different. For one thing, instead of a ham, they had goose, something a little more exotic than the usual, every-day ham. Goose typically was only had on Christmas Day, not as rare as swan, but certainly not as common as duck or turkey, and definitely not as common as chicken. The goose would take hours on a spit, turned slowly so it could cook evenly, the dripping caught in a pan laid just beneath it. The drippings would be used as a basting to keep the goose moist while it cooked, giving it the tender flavor and texture they were looking for in the Christmas goose. Another tradition that’s long gone from America was chestnuts roasting in an open fire. Have you ever tasted a roasted chestnut? Well I certainly haven’t, and I want to try it. Hazelnuts were also pretty big this time of year, next to pecans and almonds, but chestnuts really took the lead. They were the most expensive, to be sure, and were a much softer nut than the others, meaning that they would have to be eaten fairly quickly, hence the roasting. Not only did the roasting cook the nuts inside thoroughly, it also helped to get that hard shell off, cracking as it roasted. Probably a delightful sound to many, much like popcorn, I’d imagine. They’d probably cooked it the same way as popcorn, in a pot over the fire. You could probably hear them sizzle and pop across the room, all  ready to eat when the last one popped. Oh, that nutty flavor sure would be good all nice and warm on a chilly day, just having the fire going was delightful. So what happened to these two dishes? Perhaps as people came to America, some things were bound to change, sure, not everyone ate goose for Christmas in Europe, it usually was a bird of some kind that wasn’t chicken. But for a holiday, would it not make sense to have some kind of special dish, not remaking something ordinary? We have lamb on Easter, a very rare treat indeed for many. Why then can we not have an equally rare treat for Christmas? Or will these just remain in the past, only dreamed about, talked about instead of being savored? That, or create our own new traditions, whatever the case may be, we should have something unique and special for a very special day. Let’s go out and find something unique, something we wouldn’t have on a normal day, and enjoy it.


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