Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas Dinner by Vangelis Pavlidis

Yesterday I was writing about Christmas and King Arthur with his knights and I was tempted to go a bit further, so as to keep our mood in the spirit of the season.  As for me, such trips to other times and places are always a source of pleasure, especially if food is also involved.
At the center of every feast it has always been a table, with lots of food and, naturally, drink of some sort or other.  In the beginning -the times of Arthur, say- there were no special meals for the holidays.  Gradually, some foods prevailed mainly because they happened to be in season.  In the Middle Ages, but also later when the only means of preserving food was salt, people mainly depended on what was growing in the area at any given time.  In western Europe and England boars head became a tradition, symbolizing the end of the all important hunting season.  The tradition became so strong that those who could not afford a boars head would make a cake that looked like it.  The head was served with much pomp, with music and special songs.  A central place on the feast table was reserved for a meat pie, that had to include cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and  clove, representing the gifts of the Magi to baby Jesus.  Duck, goose, swan and all kinds of fowl were also very popular, served with a variety of sauces.  Also game, beef, pork, prepared in various ways. Turkey was added much later, when in 1520 made its way to Europe from America.  It was not until twenty years later that it would be placed on an English table.  In recent years it has even come to Greece- a long way from home…
I give you an English recipe of the 15th century.  I chose it because it is not far from our contemporary tastes and not so hard to make.  Enjoy!

3.5 lbs. pork, shoulder or leg, 1 cup red dry wine, 4 egg yolks, raw, Freshly ground black pepper, to taste, Nutmeg, ground, 4-5 cloves, Pinch of saffron, Salt, 4 egg yolks, hard boiled
Preheat oven at 350 F.  Place meat in a pan and roast for about 1 1/2 hour, or until done.  Remove from oven and let cool for about 15’.  In a small pot heat together wine, spices and raw egg yolks.  When it begins to boil lower heat and cook for about 10’ stirring occasionally.  Place meat in a platter and pour sauce over it.  Crumble boiled egg yolks with your hand and sprinkle over meat.  It will serve 6-8, depending on the appetite.
IN THE PICTURE:  Hunter with boar’s head.  From “Les Trés Riches Heures du Seigneur de Tha”, 15th century manuscript in the National Library of Tha.


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