Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The curious history of English Christmas Dinner at Guildhall Library

Twelfth Night Cakes

During our visit to London we attended Dr. Peter Gross's discourse about the history of Christmas food. Dr. Ross did that in such a pleasant manner - it was the highlight of our stay! He talked about the turkey and that before the turkey became popular, which was around 1567,  (until the discovery of America one had not turkeys!) one would eat peacocks, swans or geese. Especially the peacocks and swans would become very dry and tough if they were more than 9 months old. He also explained that depending on the bird the verb for carving would be different, i.e. a swan one would brake. (That's funny!). We learnt that the word turkey comes from the fact that Turkish merchants would sell the birds and as they came from Turkey... It is all logical! Whereas in earlier days one would have spend a week's wage to buy a bird it is nowadays only 10 minutes. 
(I have not yet made up my mind whether this is good or bad as a lot gets wasted and the birds are fattened partially under bad circumstances...).

Dr. Peter Ross said that the Christmas we celebrate today was very much invented by Charles Dickens. I guess he is right! Who does not think of his stories during these days?

There were many interesting assumptions as well as facts we were introduced to! I could have listened for hours! The following impressed me deeply - it refers to the third from last photo: On Christmas morning men would get up early and bake a baby out of dough for their wives (Jul dough) and presented it to them on Christmas Day. 
Dr. Ross said that the custom is still alive with elderly men but just in very few places.

In the end we had mulled wine and sherry and tasted fabulous mince pies!

Unfortunately I only realized when we came back home that Dr. P. Ross has published a book about curious food. See below. It can be ordered at Amazone. I think that is just what I will do!

Dr. Peter Ross

I loved to bathe in the English language and the wonderful narrations and stories of Dr. Ross.
It would be fantastic to go back to England and improve my language skills. And then - I feel so privileged that I was able to attend! It gave us idea to prepare an English dinner ourselves and that is what we will try and do. Post to follow! What I can say though, we will not make a turkey but a roast instead. I hope that is ok too.

Be well and thanks for stopping by!

  ♥   Emilie's daughter    

PS. Have a look at Guildhalls website
There are many interesting events going on and according to Dr. Ross they have a thousand cookery books one can look at! What a treasure!


  1. Av very interesting post Christa.
    One that can be open to many discussions. As each county have their own traditions.. its not just English all over..
    Turkey was eaten by kings.
    However.. very interesting for you to hear all about it.
    Roast is fine.
    Nina has venison
    looking forward to more about your trip to England.
    love val xxxx

  2. I would definitely want to read the book - I loved browsing the recipes you posted, so curious! x

  3. Dearest Christa.....What a wonderful post about Christmas feasts....and the book at the end too! It's interesting that what is known as Turducken in the USA is an old recipe.
    Happy Christmas.....*s*
    P.S. From reading your blog I say your English is excellent!

  4. It is a wonder that the wealthy did not burst, well King Henry Vlll looked as if he almost did - but alas the poor went hungry.
    I like the sound of lemon in mincepies - I shall squeeze a few drops of fresh lemon into my mixture when I make them.
    None of my bird gets wasted, I have done a post on all the things to do with a chicken etc which I shall show in 2014.


  5. Feliz Natal!!! Que a manjedoura do seu coração esteja pronta para receber o Menino Jesus que irá nascer!!!
    Um ano novo repleto das bençãos de Deus!!!
    Doce abraço, Marie!

  6. What an interesting post! And, you had a Sherry, I hope that you remembered me while you were tasting it.

    hugs from Jerez where the Sherry is from.

  7. That sounds a very fascinating talk. Not sure I would fancy the original mice pie or the peacock. I did wonder what the dough baby meant when I saw your picture. It always amazes me how so many of my blogging friends are so fluent in English when it isn't their first language. I would find it hard to follow something like that if spoken in German.
    Sarah x