History of Boxing Day

Boxing day was traditionally a day the servants had a day off from their duties. Because of this the gentry would eat cold cuts and have a buffet style feast prepared by the servants in advance. In modern times many families will still follow this tradition by eating a family style buffet lunch, with cold cuts rather than a full cooked meal. It is a time for family, parlour games and sports in the UK.

The traditional recorded celebration of Boxing Day has long included giving money and other gifts to those who were needy and in service positions. The European tradition has been dated to the Middle Ages, but the exact origin is unknown and there are some claims that it goes back to the late Roman/early Christian era; metal boxes were placed outside churches used to collect special offerings tied to the Feast of Saint Stephen.[1]

In the United Kingdom it certainly became a custom of the nineteenth century Victorians for tradesmen to collect their “Christmas boxes” or gifts in return for good and reliable service throughout the year on the day after Christmas.[2] The exact etymology of the term “Boxing” is unclear, with several competing theories, none of which are clearly true.[3]

The establishment of Boxing Day as a defined public holiday under the legislation that created the UK’s Bank Holidays started the separation of ‘Boxing Day’ from the ‘Feast of St Stephen’ and today it is almost entirely a secular holiday with a tradition of shopping and post Christmas sales starting.- (Wikepedia)

Boxing day is celebrated in many countries, such as: England, Canada and South Africa.  However, it is not observed in the United States.

Kwanzaa: Remembering Who Paved the Way

Kwanzaa is celebrated among many African Americans.  Please check our Food history section at http://multiculturalcooking.net to learn more about the celebration.  The video from the Essence Black Women in Hollywood Event covered by http://Looktothestars.org is an excellent piece featuring numerous celebs recognizing the achievements of Diane Carroll, Halle Berry and Taraji P. Henson.  Others speak to the issue of accepting the responsibility of being a role model.  Look To The Stars talks to Tatyana Ali, Bill Duke, Tyrese Gibson, Tichina Arnold, Laila Ali, Taraji P. Henson, Audra McDonald and Quincy Jones about inspirational black women in Hollywood.  Enjoy this video which celebrates African American culture and achievement.

The event was held at the Beverly Hills Hotel.  See the delicious foods which the Beverly Hills has to offer(YWCA Ball):


Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images North America

Do it Yourself: Fill Mason Jars with Goodies

Once upon a time people did a lot of things for themselves. Harry and David’s was not the end-all and be-all of fresh fruit preserves and corn salsa.People canned, preserved, and pickled all kinds of delicacies and used mason jars to keep them stored. Growing up, my grandmother made pickled watermelon, by using its rind – the kind of thing you do to make the most of your money. That pickled watermelon wasn’t half bad. Neither were thepeach and apple preserves lining the kitchen cabinets. Now before you go purchasing a butter churner, there’s no need to turn the hands of time back quite that far, but during the holiday season it can be fun and useful to break out those old mason jars and fill them with a few handmade and store-bought goodies. It may just save you some change and give you a little taste of the”Do it yourself” nostalgia of yesteryear.

Mason Jar #1

Here’s a quick little gift you and the kids can make. Go to the store and buy a load of candy. We’re talking jellybeans, lemon drops, Swedish Fish,Gummi Bears, Now & Laters, M&M’s. There is no wrong combination. Keep in mind these are to be given away, so make sure you get the type of candythe gift recipient likes. Fill the jar with three equal levels of candy. You can separate the levels by cutting out the center of a coffee filter or cut wax paper in rounds for a buffer. Voila! That was easy.

Maybe you don’t want to do three levels of candy, well you can always fill it up with one candy. Here’s a fun idea. If the gift recipient is a little adventurous, try candy from another country. Here are a few examples:

• Canada: Maple Syrup Candy is a hard candy made from pure maple syrup.

• Turkey: Turkish Delight or Lokum is made with starch and sugar and flavored with rosewater, mastic, or lemon and dusted with icing sugar

or copra.

• Japan: Botan Rice Candy is a soft and chewy lemon-orange flavored candy with an edible rice paper.

• Middle East: Halvah consists of honey and ground sesame seeds or nuts, sometimes with the addition of rose water and saffron.

• England: Toffee is a confection that is made by boiling molasses or sugar along with butter and in some instances flour is used in the recipe as well. It can be mixed with nuts or raisins. This one is a great one to try making at home. Click this link for a recipe for English Toffee

• South American/Asian/Caribbean: Tamarind Balls are a confectionary made from  the tamarind tropical seed pulp. The pulp is extremely tangy in taste. Tamarind pulp is shaped into balls then rolled in granulated sugar and white pepper (sometimes cayenne and black pepper are used as well). Click here to try this simple tamarind ball recipe.

Some of these candies can be found at international stores.

And sometimes you can find a promo code or two  for international treats.

The Food Traditions of Christmas Ornaments

Christmas Food Ornaments

The tradition of popcorn and berry garland was birthed in the United States.

Did you know that ornaments are supposed to be different every year? That’s right, Christmas ornaments are meant to be a board-overview symbolizing memories of Christmas over the years. The earliest ornaments were apples, used during the 1800s. Eventually paper streamers with bits of shiny metal foil were added as an effect to make the Christmas tree reflect light.

Until the latter part of the nineteenth century, Christmas trees were decorated with any household odds and ends, varying by country. Americans, for instance, would string long strands of cranberries or popcorn to circle their trees. Small gifts began to be used to decorate the tree, some times containing tiny intricately woven baskets, or at times just hanging by a thread or a piece of yarn.

In the UK, creative ornaments of lace, paper or other materials showed the variety of interests and talents of their makers. Small “scraps” cut out of newspaper or magazine illustrations also found their way to the family’s tree.

In the late nineteenth century, German glass blowers, in the area around Lauscha, began  blowing Christmas themed glass strictly for the holiday. Initially replicating fruits, nuts and other food items, they soon branched out and began to manufacture hearts, stars and other shapes that, prior to, were created out of cookies. However, now it had the added dimension of a wide color palette enhanced by the luminosity of the glass itself. Eventually the glass blowers began creating molds of children, saints, animals, and famous people. In the late 1800s to the early 1900s, F.W. Woolworth began to import the German glass ornaments at a value of 25- million.

In many countries there are still special ornamental traditions today. Here are a few of the ornament traditions:

In Germany there is the pickle ornament, placed on the tree first by the parents. The story goes that the child who finds the pickle first (normally the most observant one) would receive an extra gift from St. Nicholas.

In Lithuania, Father Christmas spreads grain on the floor and children must perform a special song or dance on this grain so they may receive their presents.

In Argentina instead of placing gifts under a tree presents are put into shoes.

Article written by Jasmine Gore

Italian: The Feast of the Seven Fishes

Calamari Salad:  a popular dish for the Feast of the Seven Fishes

The Feast of the Seven Fishes (festa de sette pesci) is a uniquely Italian tradition from Southern Italy, celebrated on Christmas Eve (also known as “the vigil” or “La Vigilia”). Although some parts of Italy do not celebrate the feast, it is believed to be an authentically Italian tradition going back to the Roman Catholic tradition of abstaining from the Italian xmas eveconsumption of meat or milk products on Fridays and specified holy days. In the stead of meat, Catholics ate fish, typically fried in oil. Other seafood has been incorporated into the celebration as well.

So why seven fish? The story is debatable. Some say it has to do with the number of sacraments celebrated in the Catholic church, while others say that it has everything to do with the Biblical meaning of the number seven representing perfection. No matter what the story…that’s a whole lotta’ seafood, so there’s bound to be a whole lotta’ family and friends and fun.

Popular dishes include

The meal’s components may include some combination of anchovieswhitinglobstersardines, dried salt cod, smelts, eelssquidoctopusshrimpmussels and clams. The menu may also include pastasvegetables, baked or fried kale patties, baked goods and homemade wine. This tradition remains very popular to this day.

Popular dishes

many more. See allrecipes.com for menu tips for the Feast of the Seven Fishes

Fried Smelts: a popular dish for the Feast of the Seven Fishes

Mexican Christmas Traditions, Food & Atole!

This write up was actually sent to the Multi Cultural Cooking Network by Dave , a MCCN fan at Facebook.  He lives and works in Mexico during parts of the year.  Here is his submission:

In Oaxaca, a festival is celebrated each December 23rd in the zocalo. Called Noche de Rabanos or Radish Night, local craftspeople carve elaborate scenes from radishes! As you can see above, their creations are fabulous!

Another Mexican tradition, called las posadas are reenactments of Mary and Joseph’s search for a place to stay in Bethlehem. In fact, posada means “inn” in Spanish. Posadas are held on each of the nine nights leading up to Christmas, from December 16 to 24th. They are usually candlelit processions to a different home each evening and participants sing a special song as Joseph asking for shelter. Children are often chosen to dress as Mary and Joseph or images are carried. Inside the home, the host family sings the part of the innkeeper saying there is no room. The verses trade back and forth until the host/innkeeper relents and lets the guests come inside where the party may be a large fiesta or just a small gathering of family and friends. Often there is a Bible reading of the Christmas story, tamales are served with a hot drink like atole and then the children break the piñata filled with candy and treats.

Click Here to See Atole Recipe

Guatemalan Tamales

¿Desea usted la receta en español? Visita: http://www.deguate.com/recetas/article_13218.shtml

Recipe in English (Receta en Inglés):

RECADO: (the sauce)

1-1/2 pounds of tomatos
2 large pimiento chiles
3 dried chiles (include if you want it more spicy)
2 ounces of pepitoria (ground pumpkin seeds)
2 ounces de ajonjolí
1 small stick of cinnamon
1 ounce of lard
Achiote (Annatto)

Boil the tomatos with the pimiento chiles and dried chiles with a small amount of water. Liquify and colander while adding the achiote. Brown the ground pumpkin seeds, ajonjolí, and cinammon, and grind it dry in a blender. Mix the resulting powder with to cooked tomatos and colander. Boil for 20 minutes, adding the ounce of lard, pieces of meat and additional seasoning. This recado sauce needs to be rather thick and a bit salty since the tamales lose salt when they are cooked.

MASA: (tamale dough)

1 pound of corn masa (the same as used to make Guatemalan tortillas)
6 ounces of rice
8 ounces of lard

Cook the rice, liquify and set aside. Break up the masa in a half-liter of water and liquify. In an appropriate pot, boil 4 cups of water, add the liquifies masa and stir constantly. When it thickens, add the liquified rice. Continue stirring, add salt bearing in mind that the tamales will lose salt during cooking. If it becomes extremely thick, add a little water. When the mixture is cooked and is smooth, remove from heat, add the lard and mix until it disappears and the mixture looks shiny.

HOJAS Y ADORNOS: (leaves for wrapping the tamales and decorations)

1/2 bundle of plantain leaves (8 leaves should be plenty)
2 bundles of maxán (moján) leaves
1 bunch of cibaque
3 pimiento chiles (roasted)
4 ounces olives
4 ounces capers
4 ounces raisins
1-1/2 pounds of pork
1/2 pound of bacon, chopped in small pieces

Cut the maxán leaves at their thickest point, clean them and place in the sun to dry out. Cut the plantain leaves into squares about 25 cm per side, wash, and boil for 10 minutes. Chop the bacon and cut the meat into appropriate sized pieces and add to the boiling recado sauce – cook for 20 minutes. Roast the chiles, peel them, and then cut into thin strips. Place a plantain leave diagonally on top of a maxán. With a large spoon, dish out a portion of the masa in the center of the leaf and add a generous amount of the recado, making sure it includes a piece of meat. Add some bacon pieces, olives, and strips of pimiento chile. Wrap this up in the leaf and tie with the cibaque fiber (previously cut and saoked in water). Line a large stew pot with the leftover leaves, add 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Load the pot with the tamales and cover with plastic. Steam slowly for about an hour and a half to ensure that the meat is cooked.


Zoe Saldana: Her Color Doesn’t Make Her Blue

In the hit film Avatar, Zoe Saldana is the color blue.  No sooner than the film, premiered the world wanted to know more about the lead female warrior character in the James Cameron film.  People are learning that the talented actress, Saldana is Afro-Latina.  Born and reared in the United States until she was 10 years old, her  multi-cultural heritage includes her father being of Domincan descent and her mother Puerto Rican.  She lived in the Dominican Republic until age 17.  Believe it or not, some parts of the world are not aware of the Afro Latino or the identity of  the Latino image bearing Black skin too.  It is great that Zoe’s success is shedding more light on culture.  What is also exciting is seeing her land a role in the film Colombiana as the lead.  It makes a strong statement about the star power she brings despite many Latin American countries still struggle with Black as Beautiful in their heirarchal scale.  Saldana embraces her physical identity as Black and her culture as Latin.  She never let Hollywood’s typical ideal leading lady concept be a hurdle for her.  She has simply jumped over the hurdles.

What do  Zoe and co-star Michelle Rodriguez have in common? Find out at: http://www.multiculturalcookingnetwork.com/component/k2/item/113-the-other-latina-star-of-avatar-michelle-rodriguez.html

Read Dinner and Movie Review for Avatar: http://multiculturalcookingnetwork.com/dinner-and-a-movie.html

Dominican Republic Christmas Foods

  • Puerco asado (Roasted pork)
  • Pollo asado o al horno (Roasted chicken or Chicken cooked in the oven)
  • Moros de guandules (a combination of rice and ‘peas’ – usually gungo peas)
  • Ensalada Rusa (Russian salad – macedoine of potatoes and carrots, with peas and boiled eg bound with mayonnaise)
  • Ensalada verde (Fresh green salad)
  • Pasteles en Hojas (Tropical root vegetables cooked in banana or plantain leaves)

  • Pan Telera (a very long, soft white bread with a crusty top)
  • Dulces (Sweets – such as jellies, marshmallows, caramels)
  • Galletitas dulces y biscochos (Biscuits and Cakes – like pastries filled with figs, Danish Butter Biscuits and others)
  • Pudim Navideno (Some families might have a version of the European Christmas Pudding)

Other Christmas ‘treats’!

Fruits: Manzanas (Apples), uvas (grapes) and peras (pears) which in the Dominican Republic are fruits consumed just at Christmas time, as a kind of ‘delicacy’! We also love to eat frutas secas (nuts) at this time of the year, especially hazelnut (we call them ‘coquitos’ which literally means “small coconuts” :-D), walnuts (nueces), and almonds (almendras)!

Drinks: Typical Dominican Republic Christmas drinks include red wine, anis (‘Anis del Mono’ – ‘Monkey Aniseed’ – is the most popular!) and ponche de huevo (eggnog) and, of course, ‘rhum’ or ‘ron’ (rum). All these drinks have always been the first choices for most Dominican’s.

But of course, we cannot forget our delicious (at least for me!) non-alcoholic drink for Christmas time: ‘jengibre’ (ginger), which is an infusion made of ginger roots which sometimes also includes a delicious fruit we call ‘Jagua’ (this fruit – also called a ‘genipap’ or ‘marmalade box’ – is about the size of an orange, succulent and has a strong flavour similar to ginger, but is much sweeter).