Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Belgian fart grenades and other Christmas treats

British turkey dinner.

Christmas dinner in my parents' house was a fairly simple affair: Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sometimes also mashed sweet potatoes, green beans, and the jelly kind of cranberry jelly, not the kind that's all lumpy with orange segments and walnuts. This was always followed by a store-bought pumpkin pie.

No wonder we were all skinny. No temptation whatsoever to overeat.

In my adopted country, the UK, on Christmas--and for several weeks leading up to the day--the food portion of the holiday is far, far different. There are all sorts of special Christmas menus offered at pubs and restaurants; the grocery stores overflow with ready-made treats and pre-stuffed turkeys and monkeyed-with whole ducks or duck breasts, or beef roasts, pork roasts, leg of lamb....and on and on.

The traditional dinner itself, on the day, usually features a turkey and dressing (no one stuffs anymore, since it became known that a turkey's cavity harbors and passes on all sorts of nasty intestinal thingies), roasted potatoes, some sort of sweet potatoes (optional), pigs in blankets, possibly another green vegetable such as green beans, bread sauce and Brussels sprouts. Also known, apparently, as Belgian fart grenades.

It is with these last two that I wish to take issue.

Belgian fart grenades

Belgian fart grenades prepared with chestnuts.
OK, Belgian fart grenades are a vegetable. They might be made slightly more palatable, although no less flatulence-producing, by being slathered in a thick cheese sauce. I have never seen them served this way at a Christmas dinner.  They can also be chopped and wokked with walnuts and sprinkled with soy sauce to attempt to make them into human food. This, too, has escaped notice by Christmas cooks, although it doesn't work anyway. 

Or, one can boil the shit out of them, drain them, and toss them into a hot skillet with duck fat and about half as many prepared chestnuts as there are Belgian fart grenades and serve them. This I have heard of being done at Christmas dinners, although none I've been a part of; at those, the grenades are always simply simmered in water, drained and served.

There is one advantage to this; then, when one is doubled over in pain that evening, one need only look to the turkey stuffing or the sprouts--or possibly the dessert, on which more shortly--to identify the culprit.
Add your own caption for this mucilaginous mess; it's too tempting for me to be rude. 


But I mustn't forget the bread sauce.

No American on earth has probably eaten such a thing. Well, OK, maybe a few. But why would one eat it? 

One answer is that it's cheap and easy. You just take a couple of cups of milk, a lot of withering white bread, an onion and a bunch of whole cloves and salt and pepper. You stud the onion with the cloves and plunk it into the milk. Heat the milk for awhile until it has acquired some oniony-clovey flavour. Then mush in some bits of bread until it reaches the consistency you like. Plunk in a little butter. Serve warm with the Belgian grenades and the food.

I found this comment on a recipe for bread sauce: "A classic sauce, one of the trimmings Christmas dinner would be unthinkable without! I learned this recipe 20 years ago and it never fails. My whole family love it and know it must be Christmas if I make it!" (Itself a rather oxymoronic concept, I think.)

That recipe and remark was on allrecipes.co.uk; I couldn't find a single reference to bread sauce on allrecipes.com, the site that serves the US market.

BTW, the same lady said she uses leftover bread sauce on turkey sandwiches, the typical lunch during the week after Christmas. 

New York Deli sandwich
British turkey sandwich

Question: Why would you put bread sauce on bread? Of course, in much of the UK, sandwiches are denied so much as a smattering of mayonnaise or other substance to moisten the scanty meat provided (no overstuffed New York deli sandwiches here!), it might be a good thing. A bit less choking on the "sammich" for a few days. 

And now, onward to dessert.

The proverbial, and very useful, Christmas pudding

A Christmas pudding has a little flour, a lot of sugar, tons of dried fruits and weekly bastings of booze for as many weeks as you make it before the big day. You can make it a year ahead if you like, as long as you keep it covered, in the dark, and well supplied with booze; this also works with crabby Uncle Nigel.  

It is boiled for four hours when first made; it is reboiled for an hour and a half on Christmas, presumably while one is busy with the pre-dinner Buck's Fizz (alcoholic cider, or in upscale homes, champagne or at least Prosecco, with orange juice) and the meal. One pours booze over it before serving it, lights same, then serves it drowned in brandy cream. Frankly, it really doesn't matter what's IN the pudding; whatever it is will have been driven out by a surfeit of alcohol, either in the food or in the bellies of those eating the meal. Better still if, between Buck's Fizz and dessert, wine is served, making the post-prandial miasmas of digested food aromas less noticeable.

It has to be that way...because all UK Christmas dinners come complete with both Belgian fart grenades and bread sauce. And Christmas pud.

You have been warned.

Copyright 2017 by Laura Harrison McBride

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