Traditions are funny. Repeating the same rituals on a regular basis - no matter how pointless; outdated; expensive or unpopular.
I am a sucker for a good tradition though. Probably stemming from my Jewish heritage, reinforced with many a youthful (traditional) viewing of Fiddler on the Roof that features a song dedicated to Tradition...
However, Christmas-time wins the traditions-on-steroids award hands down, with new ones being added on a yearly basis to keep us on our toes. When did the Christmas Eve wearing of matching family pyjamas start?? Or that bleeding Elf on the Shelf that demands monumental creativity for up to a month (depending on your family tradition / propensity for ingenuity)
I did love the genius elf-has-to-quarantine idea that someone thought up this year that gave the option to jaded parents of a two-week reprise from trying to dream up tricks for the elf to play on their kids.
But Christmas food traditions - now they take the biscuit!
Sprouts. Mince Pies. Sherry. Advocat. How many people force themselves to include these often despised and derided food and drink options, into their festivities, just in the name of tradition?!! "But we've ALWAYS had sprout and chestnut soup...."
How many people fill their fridges and freezers with random quiches and stuffed pastry goods; vegetables and chocolates they never normally look at from one year to the next?!! It's Christmas we buy weird!
Obviously, I'm fine with most of the food traditions - as a foodie I'll happily tuck into a plate of sprouts with mince pie, washed down with a sherry at any time of the year. Though if I'm honest, even I would probably draw the line at the scary yellow gloop that is Advocat.
But the cheese board!! The tradition of adding yet another course to the already biggest meal of the year. A tradition that seems to take over the fridge for weeks. Christmas cheese boards are certainly not for the boring.
Who sold us the idea of Stilton being a Christmas staple?? Blue cheese is certainly not a favourite of mine nor my family's. But, like the majority of Brits, come December, a large chunk still ends up in my basket every year. And in the bin a month or three later when it's even bluer and more scarier looking. I'm never quite sure when bought-as-mouldy cheese actually goes off??? 🤔
As for cheese covered in wax... Truckle I believe the official term is. From November onwards there is an onslaught of a bizarre range of small cheeses covered in garish or 'traditional' Christmas coloured wax. Whether from a quaint Christmas market or your local Lidl, you'll be dazzledwith delights such as Cheddar with prune armagnac; sticky toffee Wensleydale; balsamic onion, chai and chive stilton...
And because of Tradition, we buy!!
I've still got an orange wax-covered red Leciester with habanero chilli and a black waxed cheddar and Christmas ale 'truckle' unopened in the fridge.
Unopened -partly because of the difficulty in removing the wax packaging - that usually ends up with coloured lumps or streaks of it all over the cheese and because, after consuming the biggest, heaviest, richest meal of the year, finishing off with more heavy and extreme flavours doesn't actually seem like a good idea when it comes down to it. Especially when already feeling bloated, pissed, slightly queasy and ready for a lie-down.
However, if you don't succumb to the truckles by January 1st, then I guarantee they are doomed.
Yellow, red and green wax-jacketed cheeses are just not welcome January 2nd onwards.
Even the supermarkets know this as they quietly disappear off the shelf till next November.
Along with the pile-up of soft, cheeses, hard cheeses, international cheeses, artisan cheeses, vegan cheeses and truckles, another traditional, though similarly problematic Christmas cheese-board accompaniment is The Chutney or 'Jam'.
During the rest of the year, Branston pickle or a similarly simple pickle / chutney is usually perfectly adequate should a ' condiment' be required with your cheese. But once again, at Christmas, the Big Guns come out.
Champagne, gold leaf and orange marmalade; XXXX chilli and jalapeno jam; Gin, mace and green tomato relish line up next to the Truckles. And we all fall. And into the basket - sorry, giant trolley, they go.
I think I've got a 16 + year old whiskey and orange peel chutney in a cupboard somewhere that I tell myself will just get better with age.
Crackers too (edible ones - not the other pully. snappy, traditional cracker) get the Christmasifcation,
Usually Jacobs cream crackers or bread are fine as your cheese holder all year round. Not at Christmas. Rye, millet and linseed squares; Earl Grey infused oatcakes; cranberry, raisin and pecan thins all suddenly seem to be must-haves come December. Combined with the chorizo and sesame chutney and the salted caramel Wensleydale no wonder it is the cheeseboard, washed down with an aged Port that usually finally polishes us off...
That its until we rally for the traditional late night left over Christmas plate filled with cold turkey, cold stuffing, (usually no potatoes left at the point in our house and the left over veg has been separated ready to be liquidised into the 'traditional' Christmas veg soup in the futile hope that no one will recognise the sprouts in this form) a sausage roll, brandy butter, a couple of cheese straws and some yule log garishly decorated by 4 year old Jack. With a Baileys.
And come next year, we'll be doing the same all over again.
Well we have to. It's traditional isn't it!