The pull of much of Christmas relates to its history - our personal stories of the wonder of our Christmases past and the hundreds of years of tradition packed into the morsels which make up this special holiday.
Food carries much of this sensory significance. Think of the spicy smell of a freshly baked gingerbread, popped in your mouth. Savour the first spoon of Christmas pudding.
The pudding we now associate with Christmas dates to the 15th century. It was a first course containing meat (beef or mutton), onions, root vegetables and dried fruit. As more dried fruit became available in the 16th century, these were added and the meat and vegetables cut back until only suet and sometimes carrot are the remains of this more savoury pudding. By 1670, this pudding was specifically associated with Christmas.
Holly, and a sprig of arbutus, topped the pudding to keep away witches. The insertion of charms and coins could date from Stuart or Victorian England. Only the coin remains of the six objects traditionally mixed into the pudding for luck: 2 rings for love, a sixpence for prosperity, 1 trouser button for the bachelor, 1 thimble for the spinster and 1 little pig for the glutton.
It is not recorded who made the first cake with fruit, honey, nuts and alcohol, but it dates from before the birth of Christ. Initially a bread with fruit, rich fruit cakes as we know them originate in the 18th century and were made to reduce spoilage and for their travelling qualities.
Queen Elizabeth I is credited with the first gingerbread men. She favoured important visitors with likenesses of themselves stamped in this spicy dough. Initially the shapes were beautifully carved wooden moulds and the designs were impressed rather than cut.
SWEET MARILYN has made a delicious reputation supplying cakes and puddings to the Algarve including yummy Christmas puddings with brandy butter, moist fruit cakes and crisp gingerbread men. You can contact her at 282 458 391 or treat yourself at the Women's Network Christmas Fair, being held as usual on Dec. 1 from 11 am to 5 pm at the Hotel Garbe Armação de Pêra. There will also be many other wonderful stalls can inspire your Christmas decorating and gift giving.