Posts filed under Christmas

Downton Abbey Cocktails

This Sunday on January 6th, the third season of BBC's big hit series, Downton Abbey, will launch to the delight of million of viewers worldwide.

And while the dueling grand dames, played by Maggie Smith as the Downton Dowager and Shirley MacLaine as the progressive American mother-in-law, will be dueling for the best one liner putdowns, it is actually the three Downton daughters who anchor the plot's movement through good and bad times.

The series' resulting popularity has generated an interest in all things English, including food and drink, which has prompted an interesting Internet question: What cocktail best suit each of the Earl's elegant daughters?

Lady Mary, played by Michelle Dockery, has in past airings been the series' main heroine. As the eldest child of Lord and Lady Crawley BUT sadly only a girl, she cannot inherit the estate. Viewers have watched her make two romantic mistakes only to end up in the arms of Matthew, who WILL inherit the name and lands of Downton Abbey - maybe. 

After a long wait for a proposal in the softly falling snow of December, Abbey devotees are hoping for a wedding (finally)and NO MORE problems for the fair and long suffering Mary. The perfect Lady Mary cocktail would seem to be a classic (and well earned) Champagne Cocktail.

The next Downton daughter is the very proper Lady Edith, played by Laura Carmichael, who is waiting and hoping, and hoping, and hoping for her prince charming to appear, even if he is older than she and handicapped from an arm injury obtained on the horrific battlefields of World War I.

Her frustration often brings out a mean streak in her that may well mellow as the story line develops and she finds either meaning or love in life beyond just title and rank. Currently many bar masters are serving the Lillet Cocktail as the drink that matches Lady Edith's reserved English personality the best.

Finally there is Lady Sybil, played by Jessica Brown Findlay, the rebellious daughter of Downton, who reads feminist tracks, argues for women's sufferage, dares to wear the latest Paris pants fashion and, shock of shock, falls in love with the family's free thinking Irish chauffeur, Tom Branson, AND marries him. Oh no, below the salt! But what nerve!

In a strength of will worthy of any early era feminist, she stands up to her family and moves to Ireland with her new husband, leaving the wealth and grandeur of Downton for conviction and true love. It seems only a hardy Irish coffee would be perfect for this beloved but definitely brave black sheep of the family.

So choose your favorite lady of the Abbey to cheer on to fame and happiness and THEN raise your glass to BBC for another great series that's sure to set many new culinary trends as well as delight viewers everywhere . Many thanks and England forever!

Your Culinary World copyright Ana Kinkaid/Peter Schlagel 2013

Hurray for Christmas Gingerbread Houses Large or Small

Nothing heralds the arrival of Christmas like the appearance of gingerbread houses.

And although there are two forms of gingerbread (a soft form called Lebkuchen and a harder form), it is the stiffer dough that is associated with constructing gingerbread houses).

This firmer German style gingerbread has long been linked the sweet-covered witch’s house in the fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel. The Brothers Grimm were the first to write down the story of the brave witch-battling brother and sister in 1812.

But the story did not begin there. Folk historians believe the events that prompted the fairy tale sprang from the tragic days of the Great European Famine of 1315–1321 when massive famine caused desperate parents to abandon their young children in the hope the children could find food elsewhere.  Sadly most died wandering lost in barren drought-striken landscapes.

This tragic tale is so closely associated with gingerbread that the story’s evil child-eating witch is named “Frau Pfefferkuchenhau”.  Her name actually means "gingerbread house" in German.

Later these houses, covered with a stunning array of colorful candies and decorative icings were built in surely happier times to reassure both parents and children that such dark days would never return again.

Today children around the world delight in making and visiting gingerbread house collections. In the United States one of the most elegant is at the White House. Indeed it is a model of the White House itself, complete with a healthy kitchen garden and a model of the Obamas’ beloved pet dog, Bo. 

In London it is the grand Dorchester Hotel that elicits cries of delight. And why not - their gingerbread 'house' captures the essence of their grand structure. Afternoon tea anyone? Say yes - say yes!

But it is in Bergen, Norway that you will find an entire city made of gingerbread houses. Each year the city sponsors Pepperkakebyenthe Norwegian name meaning "Gingerbread City".

It is the world's largest such assemble of gingerbread houses with each child in the town (under the age of 12 please) entitled to make their own house for what must be one of the world’s sweetest Christmas cities’.

So take heart - it’s not too late to found your very own town. After all, Santa Claus has had his very own town for centuries! What would you name your's? 

Post Note, November 30, 2012: If you're wondering what the rest of the White House decorations look like, take a fun walk-though with Bo, the First Family's beloved pet dog.

Your Culinary World copyright Ana Kinkaid/Peter Schlagel 2012