Festive Cooking – my thoughts on making the switch to a new diet when many traditional ingredients are no longer an option

Festive Cooking during November and December

Thanksgiving and Christmas in many parts of the world are about festive meals and thereby festive cooking. The festive season is coming up and with it come many, many traditional foods and recipes that we associate with Thanksgiving and Christmas. The shops are full of sweet and savoury foods and dishes. If you are following a healthy or special diet that is gluten free, dairy free and free from meat except fish or seafood and most important free from saturated fats, lots of the products and foods that are for sale or on offer in restaurants or are handed out lets say at parties etc might not be for you. You might even wonder what you are going to have on the day of celebration as your new, traditional meal.  When on a pescatarian, dairy free diet the traditional turkey or goose dinner is no longer an option.

Redefining Festive Cooking not just for Christmas

I tend not to focus on what I can’t eat or don’t want to eat. Let’s do the exact opposite and focus on what we can eat and what we want to eat during the holidays. Straight away lots of ideas come to mind, recipes, recipe and more recipes of food I like, foods my family like, foods I can prepare when friends come over. Today I don’t want to give you detailed recipes of festive meals though. I want to write a little bit more about I what I want from a good celebratory, festive dinner. I want to do that because for me food isn’t just about the ingredients and to put it bluntly, not just about the turkey!

To me the seasonal feasts are about celebrating harvest, about celebrating the past year and approaching the coming year. I know this is a very personal choice and yours is most likely very, very different. I do realise we could get caught discussing personal values and ideals etc. Also it might happen that very quickly personal circumstances start to play a bigger roll (how many people attend the meal, what foods do they like, what are their expectations to mention just a few) and heavily influence what you actually put on the table on the day. In this post I want to just focus what makes a meal suitable for people to be used as a meal for celebration.

Local Traditions

Only you will now, what sort of meal is traditional for you. Maybe your family always had goose on Christmas Day. Maybe a Thanksgiving Dinner was always about creamed potatoes and pumpkin pie because they were your person favourites. Maybe your family never celebrated Christmas Dinner at home because you went on far away holidays. Maybe your ethnic background is completely different and you celebrate neither Christmas nor Thanksgiving. Maybe you have always been vegetarian. Sometimes it’s about dates, many times it’s about where you were brought up. Maybe you grew up or live in a country were these days don’t matter at all and you celebrate other days. I’m sure though that there is a high likelihood that you too have come across food or meals that are based on tradition and particular days of the year.

I was brought up under the dominant influence of two cultures and ended up getting married to a person from yet another cultural background. To this day I have particular favourites and dishes I strongly associate with this time of year. To me these festive days are a patchwork quilt of rituals, special days and meals and foods.

Celebrating with food to me means having a special dish. I might include a particular ingredient that I reserve for special occasions. To me a festive meal means having more than one course, too! More often than not it generally means I’m also gonna spend quite some time in the kitchen preparing these special dishes.

Let’s look at what sort of options are available to you if you want to cook a pescatarian or vegan special festive meal.

Making it Festive:

Vegan Christmas:

One of my favourite seasonal celebratory dishes is roasted pumpkin. Pumpkins are a little bit like turkeys (though they obviously don’t taste alike). They can be any size from small to huge! That way they make a great celebratory dinner for a group of people. The bigger the pumpkin, the more people you get to feed. Having said that, small pumpkins are much easier to cook and tend to have more flavour, too. And there is nothing from stopping you preparing a few small pumpkins for a bigger group of people at your celebratory dinner. You can also cook pumpkin in segments or you can use only the flesh of the pumpkin as a basis for other dishes. Pumpkin is a seasonal vegetable and so it does lend itself to cooking a festive meal with it at this time of year. Obviously you can choose alternatives. Lots of other vegetables lend themselves to stuffing, courgettes, sweet potatoes, peppers, tomatoes to name but a few. There are other splendid vegan recipes which are fancy and glamorous and  great to prepare for a Christmas dinner.

Pescatarian Christmas:

There are other meals I consider celebratory dishes especially if you like fish and seafood. You can splash out and buy something like a lobster if you like shell fish. Fresh lobsters to me are  a very special seafood dish. Maybe you don’t like shellfish and prefer a special fish dish. It could be that you choose a whole fish let’s say a whole salmon and cook it all in one as a big centre piece for a dinner amongst family and/or friends.

Celebrating with Food:

You could also make a whole lot of different smaller dishes like sushi, pastes, spring rolls and the like and serve a whole buffet of special little treats. Obviously the later works really well if you choose to prepare your snacks without using any fish products and you can go all vegan here, too. You can theme your buffet and make all the dishes let’s say Indian or Mexican.

Another wonderful way to celebrate dinner is to prepare your meal on the table like you would with a fondue or a raclette oven (which is a bit like a table cooking unit) that fries and grills. For this kind of meal you prepare a selection of uncooked foods that get arranged on the dinner table along with the cooker/cooking device of your choice. You will most likely serve salads and things like rice, millet or other grains as well as dips and sauces along side.

I hope I was able to give you some general ideas and help you make the switch to a healthy, OMS Program compliant festive dinner. I will be posting a festive Dinner Meal Plan over the coming weeks so stay tuned!