For me, there are certain foods that have to be there to make Christmas. But as I’ve adopted new traditions, some of my former must-haves have fallen by the wayside. So what will you be putting on the table this year that you wouldn’t have in Christmases past?
My Christmas Day stalwarts include a massive turkey (leftover turkey sandwiches with a generous heap of mayo are a given), pigs in blankets, sausage-meat stuffing, two veg (always carrots and sprouts) and Christmas pudding for dessert.
These elements have been ever present for all my Christmases and will be once again this year for my 47th.
But just as there are must-haves, so there are definite must-nots at my table. I could never, ever entertain swapping turkey for a goose. And I just don’t get people who add a Yorkshire pudding to their Christmas dinner plate.
And my mince pies have to be shortcrust pasty (surely a puff pastry one is just an Eccles cake?) with a traditional filling. Although I am tempted this year by the frangipane-topped mince pies recipe that was first published in the magazine a few years ago and has been a favourite of one of our team ever since.
In with the new
But who’s to say one 25 December in the future won’t see me tucking into a roast goose with Yorkshires on the side? After all, as my life has moved on and new people have come into it, I’ve added some taste traditions and some have ultimately fallen by the wayside.
Christmas Day evening and into Boxing Day now sees the buffet table crammed with crustaceans – crab, prawns, lobster (the latter, if we’re really lucky) – a welcome new tradition that’s come from marrying a Portuguese man with a fishing captain father.
Then there’s Leitao, a Portuguese suckling pig (bought ready cooked and eaten cold), which provides a real bonding session for the three generations of Mendes men we’ll have round the table this year.
And the boxes of deep-fried festive Portuguese pastries stacked up on the breakfast bar have replaced the traditional toast before opening presents.
Adulthood brought for me an intolerance to nightshade foods, so roast spuds have been swapped with sweet potato mash when it’s just my husband and me. But as we have the in-laws this year, I’ll be trying our special Which? extra-easy roast potatoes that can be mostly made in advance.
And instead of the illicit few sips of Babycham from my youth, I’ll be having a more grown-up glass of champagne to accompany present-opening.
While testing this year’s Christmas food and drink favourites and with our 60th anniversary celebrations still fresh in our minds, we got to thinking about how much even the most traditional Christmas foods have changed over the years.
Nowadays, mince pies come in all sorts of guises. This year, we set our expert pastry testers an extra taste challenge: non-traditional mince pies you can pick up on the high street. These included the addition of ginger and ginger bread, plus the aforementioned frangipane.
We also compared the ingredients that featured in the Christmas puddings we tested this year to those from a recipe from the 1950s. We found that where eggs and ale were both present in Christmas puddings from the past, eggs don’t tend to feature today and ale has mostly been replaced by brandy or some other liquor.
And who’d have thought, back in the 1980s, when ‘I’d love a Babycham’ was a catchphrase, how prosecco would be the most popular fizz today?
What makes your Christmas food? Are there things you must have? And what traditions have you left behind?