My favourite thing about winter are all the delicious sweet things that you can eat. Hanukkah, Yule, Christmas, New Year’s, the Lunar New Year, Valentine’s, and carnival/Mardi gras/Shrove Tuesday all fall between December and March (and probably a few more that I’m either forgetting or I haven’t even heard about). No matter where you’re from, what religion you are or what your cultural background is; there is a celebration (or a few) that you will take part in during the winter months. And they all involve food, because what better way is there to celebrate and spend special times with other than by sharing food?
Since I am basically from a christian European background, my special winter treats are usually of the Christmas variety. I spent my early years in Argentina, in the Southern hemisphere where we might have been wearing Santa swimming costumes but nuts and turron featured heavily in my family’s table. And we were not alone. Most families from Argentina have European roots, and they rely heavily on traditional winter-style food during this time of year (dammed be the non bikini friendly calories).
Of course winter is the time to sit next to a fireplace (or maybe a radiator) and drink your body weight in hot chocolate, or maybe eggnog if it’s the last few weeks of the year, while munching on some cookies (chocolate chip for me please!), or fudge, or maybe even some gingerbread biscuits.
For a while I lived in Norway, where I became slightly addicted to their peperkakker, basically a gingerbread biscuit on steroids. If you have an Ikea around, you can get hold of the Swedish version. Over in Norway, most stores (at least all stores that are not part of multinational conglomerates) have a steaming pot of mulled wine and a massive amount of these little biscuits for customers to enjoy. And boy did I enjoy them!
In Spain where I spent my teenage years and some of my early adulthood years marzipan is a big thing. I was never a fan of it, but polvorones were a different matter all together! They are a sort of large butter biscuit that is extremely crumbly and if you’re not careful you might end up with more polvoron on your clothes than in your stomach. They are sweet, buttery, and you know as you put the fifth one in our mouth that you should’ve stopped at one but that you’re probably going to keep going until that box of twelve is finished and you end up with a horrible stomachache, but happy. Roasted chestnuts are still a thing in Spain, where you can buy them from street vendors for a few euros.
And now, I live in the UK where mint and peppermint-flavour things are quite popular during winter. My kids love candy canes, and I mean capital letters LOVE candy canes. I am personally more partial to the ubiquitous chocolate assortment boxes (and, yes, the purple one is my favourite and I think the pink one comes straight out of hell). The great thing about the UK is the ridiculous amounts of nationalities you can come across on a daily basis, which makes trying things from around the word extremely easy! During Christmas I love eating stollen and during the Lunar New I treat myself to a box of red bean paste cakes.
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