Nutrition Scientist’s Top Ten Christmas Foods

The festive season is just around the corner and the British Nutrition Foundation’s (BNF) team of nutrition scientists has compiled its top ten Christmas foods to help the nation enjoy a delicious variety of nutritious seasonal fare.

The top ten highlights a range of seasonal, nutrient-rich foods that are synonymous with Christmas time and BNF also provides suggestions for new ways to prepare some old favourites.

Sara Stanner, Science Director, British Nutrition Foundation, comments: “The festive season is filled with a whole range of delicious foods, many of which are also nutrient rich and can make a great contribution to the diet. From vitamin C in clementines and fibre in nuts and dried fruit, to omega 3 fats in salmon and B vitamins in turkey. Many of these nutritious, festive foods are also very versatile, making it easy incorporate the flavours of Christmas into your cooking this holiday season.”

The BNF’s top ten Christmas foods for 2019

Brussels sprouts: Love them or hate them, Brussels sprouts are a good source of vitamin C and folate, and also provide fibre, which is needed to keep the gut healthy. Although many people will have bad memories of over-boiled sprouts, there are plenty of delicious ways to prepare them – the BNF suggests par boiling and then roasting them with flavourful ingredients such as: chestnuts and nutmeg; pecan and dried cranberries; pistachios and pomegranate seeds; hazelnuts and orange zest; or garlic, chilli and lemon zest and juice.

Carrots: Carrots provide beta carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A – important for normal vision and a healthy immune system. They can be prepared in lots of different ways – roasted with herbs like rosemary and thyme, grated in salads, mashed with cumin – also delicious steamed or serve raw with hummus for a vegan Christmas party dip.

Chestnuts: The perfect accompaniment to your Brussels sprouts, chestnuts are in season and are delicious added to stuffing, soups and sauces. Naturally low in saturated fat, chestnuts contain fibre and provide potassium which can contribute to the maintenance of normal blood pressure.

Clementines, satsumas and tangerines: Easy to eat at home and on the go, these are all rich in vitamin C, which is important for supporting the immune system, helping to keep you well during the cold months. A tasty contribution to your 5 A DAY – and the perfect addition to Christmas stockings!

Cranberries: Fresh or frozen cranberries are packed with vitamin C but because they are sharp, cranberry products can have a lot of added sugar. Try making your own cranberry sauce so that you can use less sugar, or make a mocktail with no-added-sugar cranberry drink mixed with orange juice.

Dates and figs: Another fruity festive favourite, dried figs and dates can be added to cereal or porridge for a warming winter breakfast. With their versatile flavour, figs can be incorporated into a variety of sweet and savoury dishes – try fresh or dried figs in salads or with cheese. Dried figs provide potassium, calcium, iron and magnesium and can also count towards your 5 A DAY – three dates or two dried figs count as one portion.

Nuts and nut roast: Whether you are vegetarian or just cutting back on your meat-intake, a nut roast is a delicious centre-piece or addition to the Christmas dinner table, providing a range of nutrients including potassium, iron, zinc, B vitamins, folate and vitamin E. For those catering for a variety of dietary requirements, there are plenty of gluten-free and vegan nut roast recipes available too. Nuts are also a source of monounsaturated fats, which can be beneficial for heart health and a small portion of unsalted nuts is a great healthy snack.

Roast potatoes and parsnips: Christmas isn’t Christmas without some roasties! In the UK, potatoes make a good contribution to potassium and vitamin C intakes and parsnips are also an excellent source of fibre, manganese and folic acid. Opt for a mixture of roasted potatoes, parsnips and other vegetables for greater variety. The BNF also suggests leaving the skins on for more fibre, and advises roasting using plant-based oils like rapeseed oil (often labelled as vegetable oil).

Salmon: Salmon is rich in long chain omega-3 fatty acids which are important for heart health. It is recommended to include a portion of oily fish in the diet each week, but the average person has less than half a portion. Christmas is the perfect time to boost your intake – canned salmon still counts as an oily fish – you could try mixing it with reduced fat cream cheese, lemon and pepper as a dip or mashing up with leftover potatoes and some herbs to make fishcakes. If your preference is smoked salmon, be aware that this can be high in salt and so should be consumed in moderation. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, walnuts and flax seeds are good sources of the shorter-chain plant omega-3s and can be easily added to porridge or baked into many of your festive dishes.

Turkey: Traditional turkey without the skin is a lean source of protein and is also a source of B vitamins (vitamins B6 and B12) which help to support a healthy immune system. Turkey doesn’t have to be only for the big day (or using up the leftovers) – it’s also great for burgers, Bolognese or stir fries.

Source: British Nutrition Foundation

Nothing Is More American Than Chinese Food on Christmas

Lillian Li wrote . . . . . . . . .

When my mother first came to America over three decades ago, she waited tables for five years at a restaurant called Forbidden City in Ann Arbor, Mich. She quit when she became pregnant with me, but I grew up hearing stories about her time as a waitress. Stories about stingy customers and cooks she tried to avoid — and the busiest day of the year: Christmas.

“I always got my pick of the big party tables,” she told me. “Entire families, including grandparents, would come for dinner.”

I knew that Christmas was a busy day for Chinese restaurants, and I assumed that she hated that shift. But I was wrong.

“All the customers were in happy moods,” she corrected me. “And gave us blessings.”

“And,” she added, “we could make good tips.”

As most Americans know: Chinese restaurants almost never close on Christmas. Early Chinese immigrants were not Christian, and losing an entire day of sales for a holiday they didn’t understand did not make economic sense, especially when Chinese restaurants occupied a tenuous position in America. It’s hard to imagine now, when there are over 40,000 Chinese restaurants in the United States (McDonald’s, for scale, has just over 14,000 restaurants), but before Americans were crowding into Chinese restaurants for Christmas dinner, they were more interested in crowding these restaurants out.

In “Eating History: 30 Turning Points in the Making of American Cuisine,” Andrew F. Smith explains that Chinese restaurants proliferated during the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad, catering to Chinese miners and railroad workers. After the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was passed as a result of worries that Chinese immigrants were stealing jobs from white men, labor unions set their targets on Chinese restaurants. Samuel Gompers, president of the American Federation of Labor, published a pamphlet in 1902 subtitled “Meat vs. Rice: American Manhood against Asiatic Coolieism.”

Labor unions even organized boycotts against Chinese restaurants, according to research by Gabriel J. Chin and John Ormonde. These boycotts rarely succeeded in their aim of driving the restaurants out of business. As one union organizer lamented, “A lot of union men seem to have, I am sorry to say, a fancy for chop suey.”

The unions next attempted to get a law passed barring white women from Chinese restaurants, exploiting public fears that the Chinese were a kind of “moral contagion.” White women were flocking to these so-called dens of iniquity in part because they were a way to escape rigid racial and gender expectations. Chinese restaurants may have allowed white women to smoke opium, but they also employed them in a time when only around 15 percent of women had jobs outside the home.

Jewish and African-Americans also patronized those early Chinese restaurants in noticeable numbers. As one newspaper from 1892 put it so delicately, “Whites, blacks and Mongolians mingled without sign of prejudice.”

Chinese restaurants used to be one of the few public places that welcomed African-American diners, according to Yong Chen’s “Chop Suey, USA: The Story of Chinese Food in America.” In “A Kosher Christmas,” Rabbi Joshua Plaut writes that Jewish customers were welcome in Chinese restaurants because “Chinese owners and waiters had no history of prejudice toward Jews.” It makes sense that Chinese restaurants were a destination for Jewish families on Christmas — they were among the only ones open, both literally and metaphorically.

The summer before I went to graduate school, I got a job waiting tables at a bustling Chinese restaurant. Lines sometimes went out the door and parties of 10 to 15 packed my tables. The restaurant was known for its Peking duck, carved tableside and then wrapped in flour pancakes by the servers. My first week on the job, in a sweltering July, one of my co-workers caught the terrified grimace on my face and said, “You think this is bad, wait until Christmas.”

I didn’t make it until Christmas. I barely made it until the end of July. And after I turned in my name tag, I avoided Chinese restaurants for almost a year after. My brief time as a Chinese restaurant waitress illustrated the perpetual foreignness I’d always felt as a Chinese-American, the foreignness I’d seen my parents, as immigrants, struggle with even decades after they’d received citizenship.

The customers I served saw me, and my co-workers, not so much as people as the furniture of the restaurant, and talked about us as if we couldn’t hear, or understand, what they were saying. My experience as a waitress was one more glaring reminder that to be Chinese in America is to be always on the outside looking in.

But the Christmas crowds now make me think of something else. Chinese food on Christmas has become, according to Rabbi Plaut, an acceptable alternative for anyone looking outside the usual holiday celebrations. Google Trends has found that more people search for “Chinese restaurant open” during the week of Christmas than any other week of the year.

It seems like proof that Chinese food and culture is finally part of mainstream America: Chinese restaurants have managed to become as culturally American as milk and cookies for Santa.

I used to feel lucky to have avoided the dreaded Christmas shift, but now I wonder if I might have actually enjoyed being a part of everyone’s celebration. And my mom was probably right about the tips.

Source: The New York Times

A Brief History Of Christmas Tea

Whitney Blair Wyckoff wrote . . . . . .

Christmas is a time for coming together with family and loved ones. Some 200 years ago, it was also a time to get stinking drunk in public.

“I guess [the way] Christmas used to be celebrated, you’d just get drunk,” says University of California, Santa Barbara historian Erika Rappaport. Indeed, Christmas was one of the few times during the year that working-class men had off, and many would use it to blow their wages drinking and gambling at the pub, she says. It was not uncommon to see women storming into bars with frying pans raised to drag home their inebriated husbands — and what was left of their paychecks.

Enter the temperance movement. In the 1830s, crusaders against public drunkenness set their sights on Christmas. “They wanted to make it more of a family affair,” Rappaport says.

So these teetotalers decided to, well, make it a tea holiday. Members of the movement in both the U.S. and the U.K. would hold massive tea parties, often on Christmas Eve, in halls festooned with pine tree boughs and fruit. As many as 4,000 working and middle-class attendees would drink tea at long tables, while listening to a sermon or the testimony of reformed alcoholics preaching the virtues of an alcohol-free life.

“How in the world did they heat enough water to make the tea?” Rappaport laughs.

Rappaport, who has written about temperance tea parties, says they set the stage for afternoon tea — a kind of fancy-schmancy snack time that became popular with the elite in England around the same time. Legend has it that the Duchess of Bedford popularized the tradition when she started inviting her gal pals to her room for refreshments between lunch and dinner. Large hotels in the U.S. and especially in the U.K. also took to the trend, and began offering elegant afternoon tea service in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

In the past few decades, the afternoon tea tradition has come full circle: Hotels on both sides of the pond have been resurrecting the public Christmas tea — as an antidote not to seasonal raucousness but to seasonal stress.

The biggest change from the usual afternoon tea service is the food, says Jason Deville, executive assistant manager for food and beverage at the 150-year-old Willard InterContinental hotel in Washington, D.C.

“It’s more of a focus on holiday flavors,” he says, “a lot of cinnamons, a lot of nutmeg, a lot of changes for the desserts” that come loaded on three-tiered trays. The traditional finger sandwiches also get kicked up a notch — with fillings like caviar, foie gras and smoked salmon. It’s a far more lavish spread than the bread and butter that would have been offered at a temperance tea.

The Willard, one of D.C.’s most opulent hotels, began offering Christmas tea in 2006. Deville says the recent tradition recalls a time when stylish ladies would wander down the hotel’s main hallway, Peacock Alley, to shop, be seen and, presumably, drink tea. The hotel now uses that space for its tea service.

“I think, in a sense, they were trying to re-create that Old World feeling of the hotel and go back to some of its roots,” Deville says.

The Christmas tea tradition seems to have found fans among harried Americans looking for respite from the holiday hustle. Deville says it’s the busiest time for the Willard’s tea service. And the same is true at the luxurious Drake Hotel in Chicago, which longtime staff swear has been serving Christmas-themed teas “since at least the ’70s,” according to Lynda Simonetti, the Drake’s marketing and PR manager.

“For holiday tea, we literally have thousands of people. Just on Saturday, we had 800,” she says.

Both Deville and Simonetti say many Christmas tea guests are families — moms and daughters, aunts and grandmothers. Simonetti says: “People are trying to make memories.”

That’s certainly the case for sisters Ginger Apyar and Jane Hopson, who’ve made Christmas tea at the Willard a family tradition. “You know, you just want some refinement,” Hopson says.

Last Wednesday, Hopson boarded a 6:15 a.m. flight from Chicago to meet her sister in D.C. for their holiday tea ritual. She had a ticket to return home only 12 hours later. It’s a long way for a short trip. But to Hopson, it’s worth it.

“We don’t see each other that often,” she said, after sipping black tea and nibbling a pumpkin-spice scone under the evergreen-adorned sconces of the Willard’s Peacock Alley. “And it’s a nice thing to do as a Christmas tradition.”

It’s a connection between Christmas, tea and family that would have pleased the temperance crusaders — though they surely would have winced at the champagne the sisters enjoyed with their scones.

Source: npr

In Pictures: Luxurious Christmas Trees

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Claridge’s, London

The Four Seasons Hotel George V Paris

The Hotel del Coronado, San Diego

The Victoria & Albert Museum, London

The American Museum of Natural History, New York

Le Royal Monceau – Raffles, Paris

The Designers’ Christmas Trees, Paris

Source: Bloomberg


Today’s Comic

In Pictures: Christmas Sweets