We know instinctively that certain aromas and flavours remind us of special events and none so strongly as Christmas! Cinnamon, oranges, red wine and cloves for example - and that's just the mulled wine! But there are so many more memories held in our seasonal taste buds - roasting meat, cranberries, freshly baked mince pies, gingerbread and the brandy in the Christmas cake. We each have our own personal lists of what makes the Christmas top ten in the kitchen. But why do these ingredients retain such a special place and have the power to transport us back to our childhoods in a heartbeat?
One of the reasons is that we enjoy the ritual of repetition, cementing traditions in the food we prepare and share with our family and friends. Christmas is a time of celebration and there's rarely a celebration without special food and drinks, no matter what your budget or circumstances. As well as the joy of happy memories and the marking of another anniversary, we were interested in finding out about some of the reasons we choose certain foods over others at this time of year.
Plum Pudding (also known as Christmas pud) originates from the Roman Catholic Church who decreed it should be a 13-ingredient pudding to represent Christ and the 12 apostles. Who knew?
The chocolate Yule Log is a French dessert that warmed the hearth of European households and was known as a Bûche de Noël. It is a rolled sponge filled with mousse or buttercream.
Back in the day, the Christmas ham was evidence of wealth and status. Those who couldn't afford it would eat boar's head instead. A ham was a throwback to the pagan tradition to honour Freyr - the Norse god of the harvest and fertility.
Mincemeat did actually used to include leftover meat that was combined with spices, sugar and dried fruit to preserve it for longer. Over time, the meat was used less and less until it evolved into the evocative mince pie filling we know today - complete with alcohol and occasionally suet.
In times before easy shipping and air-freight, Oranges were considered the height of luxury and were a most popular gift as they were so rare - a burst of sunshine in the midst of winter.
And finally, the good old British turkey is a long-established tradition, first introduced to the UK by Henry VIII. As a nation we consume more than10 million of them every year! It was considered a more practical choice than using up larger livestock such as cows or sheep. However, the rest of the world doesn't follow our lead - in Norway they eat haddock or cod and Germans feast on wild boar or venison.
One thing is certain, we love our traditions and so do our clients. We are just about to launch our wonderful festive menu, available from 1st to 21st December. It features mini cranberry pork pies, cookies, a brandy and herb pâté and cranberry and brie wontons amongst many other mouth-watering, home-made selections. Here's to the season ahead!