It's a winner is a turkey!

Saturday, December 31, 2005

This year’s Christmas Eve Dinner poll may have revealed something interesting about 2005: this was one weirdly normal year. From people having turkey turkey turkey, always dressed with mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce, to someone running out for pizza, Christmas Dinner was normal in that it is unpredictable for some families, and comfortably repetitive in others.

From participants in different countries representing where my friends are based: France, Canada, US, Malaysia, Singapore and England, I managed to glean some pretty funny results. First, here’s what the breakdown was:

Turkey is in orange, fish is grey at the bottom, chicken is top right in greyish green

I apologize, in advance, for the difficulty in reading the small font... but there were a lot of results. Click on image, and click on different sizes on the bottom right of the flickr page to see the image clearly.

I had 49 contributors this year, up from last year, which I forget. At first, it looked like duck was going to rule the roost, but then I started getting turkeys in the fold (hyuck nyuck!). Later on, we had a late surge of fish. It's nice to see people taking fish seriously, though it's not a traditional Christmas centreplate. This was due, in part, from the french, who show no aversion to having fish as the main when they come from a region famous for seafood, and some pasty english types who were caught eating whitebait and tuna steaks.

What really became apparent, though, is the structuring of the meal. For example, Christmas Dinner in France is a multicourse affair. One expects to have canapes, amuse bouches, oysters, smoked salmon, fois gras and heaven knows what else before the main course. After the main, one might have cheese and salad, even before the dessert. North Americans, in general, don't go for the multi-course operation. It all lands at the table at the same time: meat, potatoes, stuffing, dressings, boiled or roasted veggies and, wow I love it, cranberry sauce.*

North America vs. France

Of interest from FRANCE:

1. Pork is not seen as festive or "high-class" food in France.

2. Falafels were the choice of my old vegetarian friends in France.

3. If the field was only limited to France, duck would be our winner. Little Canard Farcis were the birds of choice.

4. Surprisingly, no game.

5. Bread, and bread related food (boudin blanc) had a surprise showing. The bread, however, was an anomaly. This comes from one of my dearest friends who had decided to join her boyfriend in Naples for Christmas Eve. Everything was fine until they realized that Italy, being desperately Catholic, closed up at sundown as everyone went back to their families and houses to feast in private. All the restaurants were closed and they were left nibbling on bread and cheese from the afternoon. So, important lesson, folks: Christmas in Catholic countries is only possible if you already know a family to stay in, or your hotel has a kitchen.

6. Annual Christmas flu results in some people taking Doliprane (painkillers) instead of eating. Very very very sad.

Of interest from NORTH AMERICA:

1. People like their turkey (ha! surprise!)

2. Chicken scored high with first generation immigrants.

3. The Tofu came from another one of my cute little vegetarian friends. She's a second-generation Chinese immigrant and their family ordered Chinese take-out for dinner! The SHAME!

4. From the Oshawa Liberace: My family ordered a party size pizza with pepperoni and green peppers from Pizza Pizza and I had to pick it up.

5. Nice to see lasagne on the list. That's the new America for you.

6. What's with people from California eating Clam Chowder?


I managed to get a few results from people who are actually professionally involved with food. Of the four asked, three had the simplest meals. The last one, of course, just blew the whole house up.

1. Rice porridge with steamed fish, butter crabs, cereal prawns and fruit.

2. Roasted lamb with truffled risotto.

3. A salad of jumbo shrimps and mango with ginger/ Goose thighs with roasted chesnuts and pureed celery-root/ Christmas Yule Log filled with chestnuts and pears

4. Bouillon de cèpes, pappardelle ("maison" ndlr!) à la farine de chatâigne, coquilles st jacques rôties
(Broth with cèpes, wide flat noodle pasta ("homemade" ed.) made from chestnut flour, and roasted scallops)

Risotto à la truffe blanche, copeaux de vieux parmesan.
(White Truffle Risotto, served with copious amounts of old parmesan)

Dos de bar de ligne, des coquillages, des oursins, sucs citronnés.
(Roasted back of bar, served with cockles, sea urchin in a citrus soup)

2000 feuilles (confiture comme 1 pan forte siennois / riz au lait à la vanille / chantilly de cacao du venezuela...
%$#*! A cake that's presumably twice the fun of a 'millefeuille'; Jam from a Sienna pan forte (kind of Italian cake)/ rice pudding/softly whipped cream made from Venezuelan chocolate)


Of interest from Singapore and Malaysia:

1. Popiah is king. Even if people aren't eating it for Christmas, they're eating it after the turkey has died and gone to bird heaven. I love popiah, one of those street foods from the Malaysian/Singaporean area. Actually, I would be hard pressed to find another place where people are as obsessed with food as they are in those areas. It's the original fusion hotbed.

Why is this important? If you want to spend a lot of money and go hopping around the globe in search of the best meal, you could just stay in Singapore and go to one exotic haut-cuisine restaurant after another. From Argentinian grill to the best Kaiseki, you can have it in Singapore, for the right price.

Finally, here's a breakdown of where my respondants came from:

Nationality of Participants

Bloggers who participated:
Umami, Stellou, Jermunns, Petite Anglaise, Tym, Yuhui, La Dauphine, La Coquette, Wondercorky, Chantel, Laurie, Eric, Juhana, Mike, and... the inimitable Clotilde Dusoulier.
Thanks so much to everyone, bloggers and non-bloggers, for participating, and happy eating in 2006!


*Cranberries are not native to France. At first I thought 'groseilles' were cranberries, since there were tart and similarly coloured, but I later found out they were currants. In fact, cranberry, in french, is 'canneberge,' and I've only found cranberries grown in Belgium and the Netherlands. That's it.

** I'm going to start a little association in the New Year dedicated to the art of good cooking without relying on truffles and fois gras. It's as if everyone thinks, with the addition of these two items, they can turn something from daily to divine. It doesn't always work that way. I love truffles, but simply. Of course, with risotto and Parmesan, it's correct. But, couldn't he have found another more creative and unique way to dress up his risotto?

One of the most expensive meals I ever had in my life was a full on Kaiseki meal. After sixteen plates of the most divine and exquisitely prepared dishes, dessert was a tomato. One single, perfect and very sweet tomato. Still, one of the most memorable meals of my life, easily defeating other truffle-laden and more top-heavy meals.