Sunday, January 2, 2022

At Christmas We Feast - Annie Gray

Looking at Facebook memories from a couple of years ago I see, with quite a lot of guilt, that so far I've only read one of the books I got for Christmas in 2019. I'm already doing better than that with this year's lot having raced through a crime collection and read most of 'At Christmas We Feast' in odd bursts over the last week. 

This is, in many ways the perfect post-Christmas book - and it's not too late to buy a copy to enjoy before 12th night puts the season to bed for another year. As I haven't started my Christmas cake yet I've officially re-designated it as a 12th cake and will give it due consideration on Wednesday, by which time the mince pies will be finished. Part of what I love about this book, and loved about Anja Dunk's 'Advent' is that both of them help re-extend the Christmas season back into something that makes more sense.

There are lots of things about modern life I could complain about; when, for example, did it become acceptable to bring food and drink into shops? Keep your greasy hands and sticky drinks away from my stock thank you very much, and definitely keep your red velvet latte's away from our carpet - nobody has actually been murdered in our shop, but it certainly looks like they have been now. One of the most fundamental though is the work-life balance we currently accept, our aversion to being a little bit bored, and there really not being enough slack time built into the working year. 

The pace we set ourselves is stupid, especially around Christmas where anticipation starts to build in earnest from Halloween, all for what used to be a 12 or more day series of festivals to be squashed into 48 hours if we're lucky. It's emotionally and physically exhausting, especially if you work in a service industry (I can't imagine a time in the year when working for the emergency services isn't both of those things, so right now I'm mostly thinking of the people in pubs, shops, restaurants, and all the other venues we turn up at demanding entertainment and bargains from at this time of year).

Stretch the celebrations over advent or consider the old feast days and you get time to enjoy and maybe more crucially, digest, all the good things to eat and drink that the season brings. 'At Christmas We Feast' is a tour through centuries of Christmas food traditions which show what's changed, what we've kept, maybe some things we'd like to adapt and adopt, has a smattering of recipes and is generally full of interesting tidbits.

I have tried the wine chocolate recipe from page 49 - or at least cobbled together an approximation of it using some leftover wine, brandy, and sugar in place of port, which I do not have open. Next time I have a leftover glass of wine, or open port, I'm going to try it again omitting the rice flour as a thickener. I like the flavour and kick of it, but don't need the cream-like consistency. I do feel that with a bit of tinkering this might be a great mulled wine alternative and all-around winter favourite. 

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed the 4 part series she did on the BBC history magazine podcast. I'd definitely be interested in reading her book after listening tafter listening to her talk about Christmas and food through the ages.