Differencesbetween American Christmas Food and the Dominican Republic ChristmasFood
Mostof cultural celebrations all over the world revolve around food anddrinks. Christmas, which is a profoundly special time for people allover the globe, is no different. Christmas, like other popularseasons, is a time for festivity and possibly nowhere is this truerthan in the US and the Dominican Republican. People celebrateChristmas in multiple ways, each culture punctuating its celebrationswith its own traditions. Food, obviously, plays a critical role inthe festivities. However, the ingredients, modes of preparation,preservation techniques, and kinds of food eaten differ amongcultures. No tradition is more significant to Dominicans, and to someAmericans, than the highly observed Christmas Eve dinner or ChristmasDay meal. Given some of the cultural elements shared between theUnited States and the Dominican Republican, one might be forgiven forbelieving Christmas food is comparable. However, there are subtle, ifnot significant, differences between the Christmas foods prepared inthe two countries. Christmas is a time for celebration and also for afeast in both countries. As such, the wide array of foods prepared inthe US and the Dominican Republic during Christmas season is similarin terms of indulgence.
America’smodern Christmas menu is mutable and there exists an undercurrent ofnostalgia for the regional influences. Consequently, the definingfactors of the Christmas meal in the US are heavily shaped by regionand steeped in local tradition. Nonetheless, Christmas is familiarlyobserved in both countries and the holiday foods are elaborate(Storm). During Christmas, families in both countries go an extramile to prepare the special meals. In the United States of Americaand the Dominican Republic, Christmas is a time for celebration andalso for a feast. For a majority of Americans, Christmas rivalsThanksgiving (Smith 446). However, unlike Thanksgiving, which is moreor less a single meal, the specialty Christmas foods are diverse andmay dominate the month-long season. However, the way the two nationsprepare their foods during this time of the year is different.
TheDominican Republic, like its Caribbean counterparts, is popular forhaving one of the world’s most lively and long-lasting Christmasseason cultures (it begins in late October and the celebrationsextend all the way to early January). Christmas is the grandestholiday time of the year for Dominicans. Although Americans areequally keen on celebrating Christmas, Dominicans raise the bar anotch higher. The biggest celebration takes place on Christmas Eveand the dinner taken can be regarded as the most significant (Webb etal. 162). Since Roman Catholicism is the most widely practicedreligion, Dominicans look forward to Christmas with greatanticipation. Compared to Americans, Dominicans are not so affluent,but they are rich when it comes to the Christmas spirit and fervor.Other than the Lenten season, Christmas can be highlighted as thefestivity whose dishes are indelibly linked to the Dominican culture.On Christmas Eve (NocheBuena),Dominicans come together as families to make Christmas holidaysspecial and pull all the stops when preparing cuisines enjoyed duringthe season.
Inthe Dominican Republic, one of the most authentic Christmastraditions relates to the preparation of puercoasado(roasted pork) or polloasado o al horno(roasted chicken). To a large extent, the delicious roastchicken/pork meat (split roasted pig) is the dish that demands themost attention on preparation and takes up the most time (Kittler etal. 293). Pasteles en Hoja is another Christmas dish that dominatesthe season celebrations. Although the dish is originally from PuertoRico, it has found wide acceptance in the Dominican Republic and hasbeen infused with new inspirations based on indigenous Dominicancuisine. The dish, which is analogous to Mexican tamales, is createdusing grated yucca (plantains) to form a paste, which is then stuffedwith meat. The savory meat mixture is wrapped in banana leaf andsteamed. Carolers (travelling choir that’s sing songs related tothe festivity) usually stop at houses late at night requesting hotpastels from the occupants (Kittler et al. 294).
Inaddition, the Russian salad is widely enjoyed in the DominicanRepublic during Christmas. The dish represents a mouth wateringcombination of potato, carrots, vinegar, hard-boiled eggs,mayonnaise, onions, raisins, and corn. The salad is mainly used as aside dish and accompanies chicken or pork servings. Sancocho(seven meat stew) is an equally a popular Christmas dish. The dishmainly contains an assortment of meats (goat meat, pork ribs,chicken, pork, longanizasausage, smoked ham bones, and lemon-rubbed beef bones), plantains,spices, and root vegetables all made into a soup. Sancochois mainly served with white rice (Albala124).However, the dish is not commonly enjoyed across all income groupsowing to the fact that it is expensive due to the amount of meatneeded. Morode guandules(Moorish pigeon peas) is also served during Christmas. The dish drawsits inspiration from Cuba. The rice, in this case, is cooked witholive oil, onions, garlic, bell pepper, oregano, thyme, celery,coconut milk, and green pigeon peas. Lastly, terera(Dominican bread analogous to Spanish bread and Mexican Bolillo)forms part of the Dominican Republic’s Christmas tradition. Thebread bears a characteristic yellowish color partly owing to the eggsused in its preparation. Terera’s flavor is rich and has a softtexture.
Incontrast, the Christmas food enjoyed in the US differs significantly.The bulk of Christmas customs in the US have been domesticated fromthose of the United Kingdom. However, the American Christmas foodalso draws inspirations form other European countries includingFrance, Italy, Germany, and Scandinavia (Webb et al. 162). For thatreason, Dominican food or food drawing inspirations from Spain doesfind its way to America’s table. In its place, is food similar towhat is enjoyed in the United Kingdom such as roast turkey (orrelated poultry), pork, ham, or beef mashed potatoes and gravydressing (stuffing) and roasted or squashed root vegetables (Storm).Christmas food in the US mostly features roast beef or ham, greenbeans, cornbread dressing, mashed potatoes, candied yams, waldorfdressing, and cranberry sauce. Largely, Americans reserve turkey forThanksgiving, which means that the dish does not feature duringChristmas (Smith 446). The desserts, on the other hand, featureChristmas cake, coconut cake, fruit cake, plum pudding, apple pie,sweet potato pie, pumpkin pie, and minced pies. In the AmericanSouth, the dessert varied slightly and may feature coconut cake,sweet potato pie, and pecan pie.
However,it is essential to recognize that Christmas food in the US is notnecessarily uniform, possibly because the US society is multicultural(Storm). As a result, the actual meal consumed may differ, drawinginspirations from regional cuisines and local traditions. The onlydominant feature of the Christmas meal in America is roasted meatsand pudding. Indeed, the centerpiece of sit-down meals deviates basedon the diverse tastes of the host, which means that they can rangefrom roast beef to ham to goose. The regional meals provide diversitywith those in Virginia enjoying oysters, fluffy biscuits, and hampie, which reflect Virginia’s English origins (Albala124).The upper Midwest, on the other hand, encompasses dishes withScandinavian inspirations such as mashed rutabaga (turnip) andlutefisk. When it comes to the southern US, rice features dominantlyand replaces potatoes, while on the Gulf Coast, seafood includingshrimp is used as appetizers (Albala124).Lastly, an Italian American meal enjoyed during Christmas Eve canencompass the Feast of the Seven Fishes.
TheChristmas food cuisine in both countries is enjoyable. However, theassortment of Christmas food in America is narrow possibly becausethe celebrations do not last for many days. In contrast, Christmascelebrations in the Dominican Republic last for several days and thefoods on the menu are many and varied. The Christmas dinner inAmerica, just like in the Dominican Republic, is particularly richand substantial. Americans, like Dominicans, love their egg nog atChristmas. The latter represents an egg-based drink mostly mixed withliquor (rum, brandy, or bourbon). Some of the other drinks enjoyed inboth countries during Christmas include Jengibre(ginger tea served hot with cinnamon) and red wine. The dessertfeature mainly fruit platter comprising of apples, oranges, grapes,bananas, and mangos.
Allin all, people all over the world connect to their ethnic or culturalgroup via similar customs including food patterns. For example,immigrants utilize food as a way of preserving their culturalidentity. When it comes to Christmas, the celebration varies as muchas the cultures. In the US, as opposed to the Dominican Republic,people have varied traditions and celebrate Christmas in differentways, which reflects US’ multicultural nature. In particular, thedessert usually mirrors the ethnic background of the participants. Assuch, the dessert may range from pumpkin pie to sugar cookies tofruitcake to carrot cake to apple and minced pie.
InAmerica, roast beef and mashed potatoes, accompanied by a mountain ofChristmas pudding do the trick. In the Dominican Republic, however,people tuck into all manner of varied and wonderful festive fare. Themain meal is held on Christmas Eve, and there is no speck of roastbeef or turkey to be seen The Christmas holidays in the DominicanRepublic are not the same without the classic dish of puercoasado(roasted pork) and arrozcon gandules(rice served with Pigeon peas). Although the dishes are commonlyenjoyed all year-round, they feature among the required eating atChristmas. Despite the differences, the Christmas foods in bothcountries feature similarities. Some of the attributes shared by bothcountries include ingredients and mode of preparation. For example,meat (pork, beef, or chicken) is mostly roasted. Other sharedingredients include raisins, onions, potatoes, and garlic. Moreover,in both countries, Christmas is a time when families get together forholiday cheer as they tuck into laboriously prepared Christmasdinner. Notwithstanding, each country puts its distinct spin on thecustoms and ingredients.
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Kittler,Pamela G., Kathryn P. Sucher, and Marcia Nahikian-Nelms. Foodand Culture.Cengage Learning, 2017.
Smith,Andrew F. TheOxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America.2nded., Oxford University Press, 2013.
Storm,Christian. “Here’s What People Eat on Christmas in 25 Countriesaround the Globe.” BusinessInsider,24 Dec. 2014,http://www.businessinsider.com/global-traditional-christmas-meals-2014-12.Accessed 3 Jan. 2016.
Webb,Lois S, and Lindsay G. Roten. Holidaysof the World Cookbook for Students.Greenwood, 2011.