How to build a traditional English—and therefore somehow more valid—Christmas feast
According to a program The Fork's partner recently watched about Victorian living called Proper English Christmas, Christmas in England (which is pretty much the way everyone thinks of Christmas thanks to people like Charles Dickens and Henry Cole, inventor of the first commercial X-mas card) was more about feasting and feteing than it was about buying iPads and stuff. Furreal, though, the kids usually got little toys, and there were surely Christmas crackers (more on that in a sec), but gifts were more of the food variety and, often, it was the landowners feeding their tenants as a show of good will and reciprocity. Our landlords don't do that these days so much as they just try to screw us at every turn, but we digress to inform you Victorian Christmas sounds cool as hell … minus how everything was about backbreaking labor in those days.
We've done some research and have cobbled together a potential menu based on Victorian stuff. If nothing else, it could be one hell of a conversation starter.
Our research shows that Victorians would have started a-feasting with raw oysters and/or bouilion. A smartly-placed phone call to Whole Foods tells us that on most days, fresh raw oysters (y'know, fresh-ish because the sea is far from here) are available for $1.99, but on Fridays, they're just $1 apiece. They'll shuck 'em there for you, but you probably wanna shuck at home. They also have snacky ones that come pre-packaged. For the bouilion, we searched high and low for a good veggie option (there's one brand called Better Than Bouilion that apparently tastes like chicken, but that's just sounds only kind of OK), but stumbled across this Saveur recipe for a rich beef bouilion that sounds divine. Note that probably not everyone would have been wealthy enough to go with beef in Victorian times, but this is America where beef rains from the skies and everyone rides the fart train to work.
Y'know how we all have that piece of information in our heads about the Christmas goose? Why is that, exactly? Well, it turns out that it's a tradition that goes way, way, way the eff back to Roman times. The short answer? There have just been more geese around than other eatin' birds, which made it a cheaper option for feast times. Lucky, then, that some folks say the texture and flavor make for some really great stuff. Geese are also dicks, which you'd know if you've ever tangled with one. Anyway, if you don't know how to cook a goose, there are many options. Of all the ones we found during our exhaustive research, the Jacques Pepin one with crispy skin sounds best. Oh, and by the way, while there's evidence that yes, indeed, Victorian folks did eat geese, our research suggests the really good feasts generally went with turkey. We've given a lot of turkey advice over the years, so you should be able to figure that one out, but if it's goose you're looking for, try online retailer D'artagnan, named for the fourth musketeer himself, Michael York (not an actual fact).
Ah, sweetbreads—the bits us Americans are too stuffy to really go for (note that we don't think everyone reading this will automatically hate sweetbreads, so don't fly off the handle, k?) and the bits that other cultures snap up from butchers and specialty grocery stores like woah—we're talkin' pancreas, chums, and from what we've learned, there are so many great ways to make them, but the pâté was a Victorian Christmas mainstay. We found a dorky blog that'll let you know more, which you can read here. But that's not all, oh no—there were peas and potatoes and something called Roman Punch, more technically a drink, but a heady and frothy one of champagne and lemon juice and egg whites that was almost like a meal unto itself. They'd serve quail as well (because a goose or a turkey deserves a more diminutive bird on the side) with truffles if their truffle hogs were in good working order.
While we're busy in America acting like we're too good for pancreas, we're also laboring under the wrong idea about British pudding. See, our neighbors across the pond just plain use the word differently, and rather than a gelatinous goo flavored of choco and butterscotch and vanilla and whatever else, theirs had so much more variety. Yes, they'd do sweet, but they'd do savory as well. Most often, it would be an amalgamation of ingredients shaped by hand or in a mold, then boiled in cloth or maybe an animal intestine if their animal intestine hog was in good working order (not an actual fact). At Christmas, they'd break out the special molds … tall ones resembling gorgeous towers on some distant shore or festive ones shaped of holly and wreathes and intestine hogs (not an actual animal). One of the more popular puddings we've seen while looking into Victorian Christmas is the Nesselrode Pudding. Crammed with more than 39 chestnuts (40 to be exact), currants, eggs and more, it kind of rides the fence between savory and sweet. If any readers out there actually make this (and here's a recipe), let us know how it went.
And All the Rest
They'd fill out the rest of the meal with cookies and cakes, with nuts and fruits and little snacks like crackers, really just anything that one could grab real quick and scarf down while waiting for that goose and/or turkey and/or quail and/or pheasant. One of our favorite parts is the Christmas cracker. For those who know, they're cool, right? For those who don't, they're like small paper and cardboard rolls filled with little goodies like paper crowns and silly toys and maybe a sweet or two. We've seen fancy ones out there, too, that have diamonds and gold bars and, like, cars and stuff, but that's just kinda weird to us. The folks of the Victorian era probably would have thought the same, but maybe they were too tired from all the birds and puddings and peas and stuff. There's so much more to learn, but if you're aiming to have as Christmassy a Christmas as you can, this is a good place to start.
Make your own Christmas crackers!
We don't know what that accent is, but we love it!
–Café Mimosa (a restaurant we like because its ownership is down with making safe spaces for LGBTQIA2+ folks at its monthly Pan@Mimosa event) is now serving up dinner courtesy chef Alex Hadidi, who hails from Algeria. Expect North African flavors and also a happy hour from 5-6 pm Tuesday-Thursday.
-We were sad to hear about the passing of iconic formerly local chef Kelly Rogers. Rogers worked at places like Coyote Café and La Casa Sena before moving to Texas in the early aughts. If you worked in Santa Fe foodservice in the last 20 years, as The Fork did, it's a name you know and a major loss to the food world here and there and everywhere.
-Seeing as how it's the season of giving, y'all should probably know that non-perishable donations for Santa Fe's Food Depot have dropped between 2018-19. If you didn't know that manufacturers often donate food—but the size and scope of the donations can change year-to-year, now you do know. These folks do so much good in the community, if you think of it, donate food or money or even time. Learn more about the Food Depot right here.
-SFR contributor Molly Boyle (who recently penned an awesome review of a new book of poems by Jake Skeets) tells us she's basically in love with spiced nuts for the holidays, and that this recipe from Food & Wine tops her list—so long as one adds some Chimayo red, of course. Molly even shot us a link to a vegan version.
¡WHO'S OPEN?!? ALERT!
Y'all remember when we gave you a list of restaurants that were open for Thanksgiving? Here's a link. Anyway, a lot of those same people are open for Christmas, too, so make use of the links (or your phone) and ask around.
"But what about the people who have to work?" some of you are probably thinking derisively.
Well, there are people who don't celebrate. There are Jewish people. There are those who make a shit-ton of money on holidays and would rather do that than spend any time with their families. It's all a rich tapestry, and our calendar leans far too hard toward Christian holidays anyway. Just be cool. Oh, and tip well.
-Speaking of Chipotle, USA Today says they're giving away free burritos through Friday. Here's that info.
-We also learned from USA Today that Cheerios, which, as we all know, is somehow good for your heart, is altering the shape of its famed Os, opting for heart shapes to really drive the point home.
-Meanwhile, lord of all sliders White Castle has issued a recall for some of its products over fears of possible listeria contamination. Yikes. Insert Harold and Kumar jokes here.
-In other recall news, ready-to-eat food company Fuji Food Products has issued a recall for sushi and salads sold at Walgreen's, Trader Joe's and 7-11.
-Speaking of national chains and free stuff, Starbucks is doing a Happy Hour thing on Thursdays through December (The Fork comes out on Thursdays), and that includes a buy-one-get-one-free thing on what they're calling "handcrafted" drinks.
-Lastly in around the internet food news, HuffPost breaks down the 10 biggest restaurant trends of 2019, including the rise of vegan plant-based meat substitutes, the Keto craze, ghost kitchens (restaurants that exist solely for meal delivery apps like Postmates and Uber Eats) and more.
In the print edition of SFR, food pinch-hitter Cole Rehbein sampled Santa Fe's newest Pan-Asian eatery Lucky Goat.
A Totally Scientific Breakdown of The Fork's Correspondence
Number of Letters Received
*The Fork spent an enjoyable weekend in Malibu when they were 29.
Most Helpful Tip of the Week
Don’t even ask.
Actually Helpful Tip
The one about Café Mimosa's new Happy Hour.
*We love that place!