From its pre-Christian origins to the present, food has always been central to Christmas; a feast at which tradition, nostalgia, innovation, symbolism, and indulgence all come together at the table. This book explores the rich story of Christmas food and feasting, tracing the history of how our festive menu evolved and inherited elements of pagan ritual, medieval traditions, early modern innovations, Victorian romanticism, and contemporary commercialism. Although it makes reference to global traditions, it focuses specifically on the story of how the British Christmas meal evolved, both on its native shores and beyond. It considers the origins, form, and structure of the modern British Christmas dinner, with its codified menu and iconic festive dishes and drinks.
It also tells the story of what happened to that meal as it was taken throughout the Empire, becoming entrenched in places most strongly associated with the British Diaspora. In these places, spread across the Globe, keeping a very precise model of Christmas became a key marker of cultural identity. This British Christmas was not unchanging, though; rather, it adapted to new environments, and merged with the Christmases of other cultures encountered to create new traditions. Looking beyond Britain, to places strongly associated with its Diaspora, such as the United States of America, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, helps us to understand the cultural significance and meaning of this feast with more complexity. With recipes and menus, this work will help modern readers understand the feasts of Christmas past, and perhaps incorporate some of those old dishes into Christmas-present festivities.
Ever wondered why we eat and drink the foods and beverages at Christmas? Madeline Shanahan's Christmas Food and Feasting uncovers the culinary traditions served at Christmas across the "Anglosphere" from the middle ages to the present day. It is filled with surprising twists and unexpected derivations from riotous parties and drinking bouts of the past to the sedate family sit-down dinners of today. This well-researched and well-documented book is also a fun read! -- Andrew Smith, Culinary Historian