Well our Christmas menus have been pretty much set. Christmas Eve will be along the lines of a traditional réveillon: tourtière , a baked ham, chicken pot pie, potatoes au gratin, a salad with roasted carrots and red onion, some cheeses and for sweets mulled wine jellies, amaretti and brown sugar fudge. Christmas Day will be roast beef, colcannon, roast vegetables and our Plum Pudding from the Humane Society. And of course there will be juice of the grape that has been allowed to mature as well as other beverages of a Bacchian nature. Boxing day and the days of Christmastide will no doubt be great heaps of leftovers.
On the Stikine River on 25 December 1868 the traveller Charles Frederic Morrison found himself enjoying an unusual substitute for turkey, goose or beef. “Our Christmas dinner,” he recalled later, “consisted of a young beaver stuffed like a suckling pig, which proved delicious. Lynx also makes a good stew if you do not think of cats, and squirrels make un grand ragoût.”
And speaking of traditional Canadian Christmas fare I came across this rather odd print from The Graphic, a weekly British Illustrated newspaper, from January of 1879. The title would suggest that the then Governor General the Marquise and the Marchioness of Lorne are the subject of the print however I am hard pressed to find the good royals anywhere in the picture. What it does appear to be is a Christmas Eve market with all manner of interesting fauna available to grace the Yuletide table: pig, bear, deer, geese (including one that is either being flung in the air or stopped from escaping), and something that looks like a carcass of some unidentifiable critter carried by two men. It certainly paints an interesting picture of Christmas fare on the tables in Ottawa. No doubt the good citizens of the Motherland were intrigued and perhaps amused by the life style of the colonials.
And just to confirm that our forefathers had some interesting (in the Chinese sense of the word) eating habits at Yuletide our friend Cathy sent me a link to an article from Canada’s History magazine entitled Stuffed Beaver with all the Trimmings. It includes a recipe for bread sauce with the side note that as turkeys were rare it was often used as an accompaniment to the roast porcupine, haunch of bear, fox, or wolverine or possibly a stew made of muskrat or moose on the festive board. However I think our table will be just fine this year without “moose nose” as an starter.