We all have our traditions. Whether they are ones we start ourselves or those we inherit, these practiced and well-worn habits add comfortable touchstones to our lives. They serve to anchor us in familiar harbors as we navigate life’s challenges, and root us in ritual and warm remembrance. No time of year serves up heavy portions of tradition like the swath of holidays at the end of it, with the desire for reflection rounding the corner as our planet completes another circle around the sun. Whether they be religious, cultural, familial, or simply an excuse to gather, our end of year traditions may vary in content and location but in context remain strikingly similar. Friends and family gather around meals and warm hearths, share stories and hopes for the coming year.
Over the course of this undeniably wild year, we’ve visited cuisines from around the world in our Txoko virtual tastings. Each dish we’ve explored, born out of the unique combinations of environment, history, and culture, has been an expression of that place through the senses. Holiday meals, far from the exception, are that embodiment sent into overdrive, as they combine the rituals and importance of tradition with the culinary expression of culture. Take for example the Sufganiyot, the traditional round jelly doughnut made during the Jewish festival of Channukah. Based on the tradition of eating fried foods during this holiday of oil and light (a tradition considered ancient by scholars even 800 years ago), these sweet pastries made their debut in Europe in the 15th century, and has since became an Israeli and eventually U.S. staple on bakery shelves during the winter months. Or La Bûche de Noël (or Yule Log we may know it), a French medieval tradition based on burning a large wooden log from Christmas Eve to New Years for good luck within the familial hearth, the center place of gathering in the home. As hearths disappeared, the log ritual moved to the dinner table, with the actual wooden log eventually replaced with an edible cake one. In Denmark, the risalamande, a rice pudding topped with a Danish cherry sauce, is found in nearly every household on Christmas Eve. Often these traditional dishes are served up alongside other rituals, whether it be decorating a tree, lighting candles, or perhaps simply gathering together with friends new and old. These time-honored remembrances are almost automatic, an indication that even as we pass into the new year, we remain rooted in our past.
There is a time and place for every tradition, and with this special holiday tasting, we hope to share with you some of our favorites. Whether our own or those of others we honor in our menu, we promise you an evening of culinary exploration of the dishes which make the holidays happen around the world. Alongside this, we have exciting news to share about what the coming year will bring, and can’t wait to celebrate with you all.
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