My whole life I have watched longingly as other families carefully chose their Christmas hams and discussed different options for glazes. I’d walk past the long line at the seafood shop and think, “Why can’t that be me?” We tried Christmas pudding for the first time two years ago and were reluctant. My brother actually walked around spoon feeding it to us like we were reluctant toddlers.
You see, I’m of Italian heritage, so pasta is the dish that stars on our table on Christmas Day, regardless of the heat and the sweat dripping down our backs as we eat. Pasta and roast. We have never had a glazed ham, never eaten fresh seafood and never carefully planned our pudding.
I was born here but my parents were not. They are Italian, the most Italian Italians in Australia, and they express this Italian-ness fiercely, by stubbornly eating Italian food every single day. Even on Christmas Day we forgo the usual Christmas selections and put on the most impressive of Italian spreads, regardless of the heat and the sweat dripping down our brows.
Mum once added a turkey to the table which we tried, hated, and then spent the remainder of Christmas lunch mocking as we shoveled lasagna into our obnoxious gobs.
I think it’s pretty safe to say that ham and seafood aren’t featured on majority of Christmas tables around Australia. Different nationalities are more likely to feature foods traditional to their own Christmas celebrations, regardless of the heat.
LISTEN: Jody Allen feeds her entire family Christmas dinner on a $50 budget. She discusses how, on our podcast for imperfect parents. Post continues after.
Here are five of the most unusual Christmas foods being served up this year, that are only unusual to those families currently arguing over what kind of custard to serve with the pudding that has been sitting in their darkened cupboards since October.
Spinach pie is the feature of the Greek Christmas table and nobody does savory filo pastry dishes better than they do. Several of my Greek friends – when asked about the non-traditional Christmas foods they eat each year – wrote entire paragraphs of worship for their beloved spanakopita. Filo pastry is wrapped around spinach, feta cheese, onions, egg and seasoning. Yes, glaze is involved, in the form of milk or egg wash brushed onto the top layer to create a golden colour.
The first time I saw a kibbeh pie I thought someone had gotten the beef out of the fridge ready to grill some burgers. Instead, that mound of seemingly raw mince was the traditional kebbeh pie and is featured at most Lebanese Christmas lunches. It’s Lebanon’s national dish made from minced meat and burghul. Served with amazing spiced and nutted rices and salads it’s a deliciously fresh offering, and not a prawn in sight.
Most families wouldn’t consider a rice dish to be a central feature of a Christmas lunch table, however Indian families dig into this traditional dish each year. It is made with incredible spices, rice, meat and vegetables. Each family has their own variation which may include egg, dried fruit or yoghurt and it’s a one-pot, staple dish.
4. Vitel Tone
Not many would think to mix veal and tuna together, unless they are of Argentinian descent and then it makes perfect sense. This Christmas dish has an Italian influence – hello, vitello tonnato – and features veal slices topped with tuna sauce and capers. No Argentinian family would think of celebrating Christmas without it. I guess you could say seafood makes an appearance in the form of tuna, with no lining up at the Fish Markets required.
5. Pavo Trufado de Navidad
I’m not a fan of turkey, unless a Spanish family gets their hands on one and then they will whip up a Christmas turkey dish that you’ll dream about for the rest of your life. The turkey is stuffed with truffles and then rolled, cooked and sliced. Brandy is included in the recipe, as are mushrooms. It’s such a pretty dish that leaves most baked turkeys to shame. No endless braising or checking of temperatures. Just rolling, slicing, cooking and eating.
What’s on your Christmas table?