Christmas in the Cold… Again
I’ve moved countries again and this year I’ll be in Germany, home of the Weinächtesmarkte, spending the Christmas period in the cold with Glühwein and Kartoffelklöße to keep me from freezing… what a concept!
I joke of course. I’ve had Christmases in Japan huddled under a kotatsu keeping warm with nabe, or finding the one Canadian restaurant in Shibuya putting on roast turkey with Cranberry sauce. I did however refuse to buy into the extremely well-marketed “traditional” KFC Christmas dinner whilst living there. Plus, having grown up in Australia where we watch a lot of British and American programmes, I always saw seasonal movies and TV episodes with everyone rugged up in heavy jackets, scarves, mittens, hats, ugly sweaters and the whole shebang, on their way to family dinners with steaming hot roasts, veggies and gravy. From looking at photos of myself as a baby, I might have even been in England with family for one of those Christmas dinners around the age of two.
But most of my Christmases have been summer ones—a concept which the majority of people I meet outside of Australia take a little while to get their heads around. While it’s not quite the land of perpetual summer that many think it is (at least not where I’m from in the southeast), like everywhere else Christmas Day is celebrated on December 25th, and in Australia that’s summer. Or, and mine is the only family I know of who did this, take the next public holiday a month later on January 26th to escape as much of the Christmas nonsense and bustle as possible (at which point, it’s even hotter than December!)
So, now the all-important question: what does an Aussie summer Christmas taste like? Seafood plays a big role—surf and turf and Oysters Kilpatrick are popular down under. My favourite was always the pre-meal prawn cocktail. I loved peeling off the exoskeletons and legs and slathering the squishy pink bodies in sauce. Later, as I tried more and more Japanese food, I also came to enjoy the crunch of the tails. There is always a potato salad. Potato salad is key on any summer occasion and Christmas is no exception. We still eat roasts too, although they’re definitely more enjoyable cold; snags and lamb cutlets if the barbie is fired up, a couple more salads and plenty of sparkling wine to go round.
Then come desserts. Sometimes we have pavlova, sometimes trifle, often a good ol’ Christmas pud’ with custard or ice-cream, or, if you’re lucky enough to know someone who knows the recipe, Christmas-pudding ice-cream!
This might sound like a lot of work for the poor person who hosts, and it is, but many of the dishes or drinks are brought by guests in true blue bring-a-plate fashion to make sure there is entirely too much food and you all go home stuffed.
On principle, I’m something of a Grinch when it comes to Christmas; I’d rather hang out with Krampus than St Nick. But I do love sharing new dishes with friends, so I’ll put aside my bah humbug hat and bring kimchi nabe and gyoza to Berlin this year. I don’t think the Aussie dishes will cut it in this weather!
*Glühwein – Mulled wine
*Kartoffelklöße – Potato dumplings
*Kotatsu – Small heated table, often with a detachable blanket
*Nabe – Japanese hot pot often kept warm on a portable stove in the centre of the dining table
*Snags – Aussie word for sausages