Sunday, 23 December 2012

Christmas Dinner (la cena navideña): in defense of turkey

I hadn't planned on doing another new post until 2013, but I was inspired to write this after watching River Cottage Christmas Fayre, starring Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

(I see he used ye olde Englishe spelling, despite knowing nothing about Old English. And fayre would be Middle English anyway.)

My beef is with how Hugh and his army of effeminate Aga-loving country fudruckers decry the Christmas turkey as "an American intruder".

Yes, turkey is "American", but not in the sense of "United States" (by which Hugh means "How dare another country have people in it who are wealthier than I am? A pox on them!").

Turkey is "North American" food, and it's an important part of Mexican cuisine.

Chicken is the most commonly eaten bird in modern Mexico, but it was introduced by the Spanish.

When the Spanish first arrived, they found turkey was the long-established culinary bird of choice.

Today it features in Mexico's national dish, guajalote en mole (turkey in mole sauce), which will be eaten in Christmas dinners throughout the republic.

In fact, as the Spanish conquest of Mexico comes about 100 years before the landing at Plymouth Rock, we might say turkey is first and foremost Mexican food.

Of course, our Christmas-style roasting has nothing to do with Mexico. In fact, the Castilian Spanish word for "roast" (asar) means something very different in the Mexican kitchen.

But the fact remains that when you eat turkey, you are partaking of Mexico's long and infinitely varied culinary history.

That's why turkey will always have a place on my Christmas table.

¡Feliz navidad!