Pigs Feet and Lady’s Thighs: Christmas Foods from Around the World

From goat cookies to fried eel, traditional Christmastime foods from around the world might raise some eyebrows at your holiday feast. After reading about these dishes, let us know what your family will be eating this year.

Yule logs
The French Bûche de Noël is usually a cake shaped like a yule log, but cooks craving variety can opt to fashion a savory main-dish log. Layers of pureed, jellied vegetables or pâté frosted with lard are two of the alternatives.

Throughout much of Scandinavia, this boiled codfish soaked in lye is synonymous with Christmas. Don’t break out the good silver to serve it, though: It will permanently ruin the finish of sterling silver utensils.

Bibingka and puto bumbong
In the Philippines, Christmas wouldn’t be the same without this rice-flour pancake cooked with coconut milk and topped with cheese and salted duck eggs. Also popular is puto bumbong—purple sticky rice steamed inside a bamboo tube and served with sugar, butter and coconut.

While many Italian families opt for chicken or pasta on Christmas Eve, some enjoy a traditional dinner of female eels up to four feet long, purchased live and then roasted, baked, fried or steamed.

Goat cookies and pig feet
In Sweden, gingerbread cookies called pepparkakor may be shaped like hearts or stars, but also come in a festive goat shape. Dinner might consist of lutefisk or pickled pig’s feet, or a mixture of eggs and anchovies called gubbröra, meaning “old man’s mix.”

Swiss Christmas cookies come in interesting shapes with even more interesting names, from the orange-flavored Lackerli (little licks) to Biberli (little beavers), which are stuffed with ground almonds and lemon zest. Spitzbuebli (naughty boys) are sandwich cookies filled with jam, while Schenkeli (lady’s thighs) are crispy fried cookies shaped like a comely gam. If you pale at the thought of eating lady’s thighs, opt for the hazelnut bars called Totobeinli (dead legs).


Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California
The Concept of the American 'Backyard' is Newer Than You Think
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California

Backyards are as American as apple pie and baseball. If you live in a suburban or rural area, chances are good that you have a lawn, and maybe a pool, some patio furniture, and a grill to boot.

This wasn’t always the case, though. As Smithsonian Insider reports, it wasn’t until the 1950s that Americans began to consider the backyard an extension of the home, as well as a space for recreation and relaxation. After World War II, Americans started leaving the big cities and moving to suburban homes that came equipped with private backyards. Then, after the 40-hour work week was implemented and wages started to increase, families started spending more money on patios, pools, and well-kept lawns, which became a “symbol of prosperity” in the 1950s, according to a new Smithsonian Institution exhibit.

A man mows his lawn in the 1950s
In this photo from the Smithsonian Institution's exhibit, a man mows his lawn in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington
Library in San Marino, California

Entitled "Patios, Pools, & the Invention of the American Back Yard," the exhibition includes photographs, advertisements, and articles about backyards from the 1950s and 1960s. The traveling display is currently on view at the Temple Railroad & Heritage Museum in Temple, Texas, and from there it will head to Hartford, Connecticut, in December.

Prior to the 1950s, outdoor yards were primarily workspaces, reports. Some families may have had a vegetable garden, but most yards were used to store tools, livestock, and other basic necessities.

The rise of the backyard was largely fueled by materials that were already on hand, but hadn’t been accessible to the average American during World War II. As Smithsonian Insider notes, companies that had manufactured aluminum and concrete for wartime efforts later switched to swimming pools, patio furniture, and even grilling utensils.

A family eats at a picnic table in the 1960s
A family in Mendham, New Jersey, in the 1960s
Molly Adams/Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, Maida Babson Adams American Garden Collection

At the same time, DIY projects started to come into fashion. According to an exhibit caption of a Popular Mechanics article from the 1950s, “‘Doing-it-yourself’ was advertised as an enjoyable and affordable way for families to individualize their suburban homes.” The magazine wrote at the time that “patios, eating areas, places for play and relaxation are transforming back yards throughout the nation.”

The American backyard continues to grow to this day. As Bloomberg notes, data shows that the average backyard grew three years in a row, from 2015 to 2017. The average home last year had 7048 square feet of outdoor space—plenty of room for a sizable Memorial Day cookout.

[h/t Smithsonian Insider]

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