Posted in Kafevend Blog

Waiting for the New Year

It's that odd, nowhere time between Christmas and New Year when most of us have trouble remembering what day of the week it is, but few of us have a problem eating all that lovely rich Christmas food! So why not put the kettle on, make yourself a cup of tea, break open another box of chocolates and read on to find out some of the stories behind the food we traditionally consume at Christmas time.

Christmas dinner

First up let's consider the Brussels sprout. It got its name because historically large numbers of the vegetable were grown in Belgium during the sixteenth century. Sprouts are one of those foods that divide opinion very strongly like Marmite or lapsang souchong. Scientific study over the years has revealed that whether you love or hate them actually has a bona fide scientific basis. It turns out that they contain a chemical which tastes bitter only to people with a variation of a certain gene. Those of us who carry that variation are the ones who pull a face when forced to eat the odious little vegetable, while those who don't are left wondering what all the fuss is about because they're oblivious to the awful bitter taste!

Two of the most popular foods served up for Christmas dinner originate from the Americas. Both the potato and the turkey would have been unavailable to us here in Europe before the continent was discovered and explorers began to return to our shores with new foods for us to try during the 1500s. The turkey remained an expensive luxury until well into the twentieth century however. It wasn't really until Bernard Matthews' venture into large scale turkey farming, beginning in the 1950s, that the price of turkey became widely affordable and the centrepiece of Christmas day.

By contrast, stuffing has been eaten since Roman times at least. Apparently, it's always been a way of using the space inside an animal once the innards have been removed and the cavity cleaned out and is arguably a useful way to prevent the meat from drying out. Sage, onion and pork are a popular combination, although there are plenty of other alternatives to choose from.

The sweet stuff

These days the big four chocolate brand names in tubs or tins are Roses, Quality Street, Heroes and Celebrations. While there's no difficulty identifying the newcomers to the group, Roses and Quality Street seem to have been gracing the Christmas coffee table forever. Cadbury's Roses acquired their floral name thanks to the packing company, Rose Brothers, that produced the machines used to wrap the chocolates. Roses first appeared in the shops in 1938, but it was Mackintosh's Quality Street that came first in 1936. Boxed chocolates had been a luxury item that only the wealthy could afford to indulge in. Keen to find a way of marketing chocolates to the wider public, Harold Mackintosh came up with the idea of coating different types of toffees in chocolate and introduced the first twist wrapping machine to further reduce packaging costs, thereby creating an affordable treat for all. It was this newly created twist wrap market that Cadbury was making a bid to enter two years later with their Roses.

Another firm Christmas chocolate favourite through the years pre-dates both Quality Street and Roses; Terry's chocolate orange hit the shelves in 1932. The company had previously launched a dessert chocolate apple in 1926 which ran alongside the more popular chocolate orange until 1954. While no one is bemoaning the loss of the chocolate apple, Toblerone did create a storm earlier this year with their money saving introduction of more widely spaced triangles. More Toblerones are sold at Christmas than at any other time of the year, so it will be interesting to see if the change put many people off buying this particular festive treat. The Toblerone was created in Switzerland over a century ago in 1904 by Theodor Tobler, who used a combination of his own name and the Italian word for nougat, torrone.

We hope we've whetted your appetite for a few more chocolates before the January diet season kicks off! Enjoy your New Year's celebrations this weekend.

Brussels sprout
Terry's chocolate apples and oranges

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