Culinary Historians of New York presents:

Tuesday, December 13, 2022, at 6:30 pm

The History of International Holiday Culinary Traditions: from Solstice feasts through the “Twelve Days”


Program Description

Nearly every society banishes the dark of winter with festivals designed to bring joy and light, accompanied by special foods that are imbued with cultural meanings. Christmas feasts are fascinating time-honored traditions that are fluid and place-specific, such as the “Feast of the Seven Fishes” that marks Italian heritage, the “Thirteen Desserts” of Provence and French “Réveillon”, or the Dickensian roast turkey and plum pudding, a meal that quickly crossed from Victorian England to the United States in the 1840’s. Why these foods and others, especially sweets, resonate so deeply is a story of politics, trade and of course, religious symbolism.

Kaufman will discuss charming “origin” stories (culinary myths) about panettone and the special place bread takes in the Italian imagination. She will explore the interesting juxtapositions in the difference between cultures, such as in traditional holiday meals in France and Italy – the French focusing on a meat feast and the Italian feast of fishes that is “lean” following the tradition of pre-Vatican II dietary standards. She will also cover the special desserts of these holiday celebrations: the French culinary tradition of the bûche de Noël (Yule Log cake), the British plum pudding, gingerbread and 12th Night Cake. Chef also traces the influence of these traditions that emerged in mid-19th century America and their evolution according to diverse cultural identities and geographical location.

Recipes included: Gingerbread in cake form from a 19th century cookbook by Eliza Acton and a 12th Night Cake based on a Martha Washington recipe.

This event, created for the Columbia University Alumni Club, is also offered to CHNY members who may send an email message to and receive a link.

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