Saturday, December 20, 2008

Holiday Comfort Food

Our holidays, whether they be Christmas Kwanzaa or Hannukah are food based. We crave the comforting smells of roast turkey or ham, collards or brisket to get us through these hectic days and frigid nights. The remind us of our pasts and where our families came from. They, more than any present, have given us good memories.

Christmas Eve and Christmas dinners are redolent with robust dishes full of seafood, ham or turkey. Southern Italians have good memories of their Christmas Eves. this is when thirteen different kinds of fish are cooked to represent Jesus and His Apostles. Since it's a holy day , no meats are allowed, hence the plethora of seafood. Usually cod and lobster are the prevailing fish but there's also shrimp, eel and tuna as well. German love Christmas Day when there is a fresh ham to be sliced and served with potato salad. The English love their roast goose and turkey along with their chestnut stuffings and plum pudding.

Kwanzaa and Hannukah also have great dishes. Since Kwanzaa is the celebration of the harvest most dishes have fresh vegetables in them (not an easy feat in some areas of America). There is jollof rice, a dish made with rice tomatoes and peppers along with a turkey gumbo. Spicy peanut soup is made to ward off the chill and sooth the soul. There are also okra and greens. Holiday baking includes benne cookies made with sesame seeds that give the eater good luck.

Hanukkah is a special holiday , filled not only with latkes but also with brisket. This cut of meat from a cow;s lower chest is usually served with onions or a sweeter version is made with plums . It;s the perfect meal on a cold winter;s night. Israelis finish off a good Hanukkah meal with sufganiyot, or fried jelly doughnuts. This, too, celebrates the oil's lasting eight days in the temple. They're made with a yeast dough and a raspberry jam filling. (although you can substitute any kind of flavor in them).

The holidays , no matter which one, always give us comfort food. These are what are favorite holiday remembrances are made from. It's what ties us to our ancestors and their traditions.

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