Tag Archives: Christmas food



  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 Tbls sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 Tbls vegetable oil
  • Butter
  • Powdered sugar

Mix flour, sugar, and salt. Add water, eggs, and oil. Stir until lumps are gone. Fry on a poffertjies pan or fry silver-dollar sized pancakes in a frying pan. To serve, spread with butter and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

CONTEXT: EC is a white graduate student at USC studying linguistics. Up until attending USC, she lived in Pasadena, California. That being said, her dad is from Iowa, and her mom is from Indiana.

The recipe itself was typed and printed on a piece of printer paper.

EC: I learned it from my dad. He makes poffertjies for us. We make it for Easter and Christmas brunch. It’s very much a brunch, a breakfast. It’s a Dutch recipe, you need a special pan to make it in: a round pan. All the ones I’ve seen are cast-iron, although I would imagine that you can make them in a non cast-iron, but it has little divots in them that are less than an inch in diameter, and there are about 15-20 of them. It’s like pouring batter into  a mold, and then you use a special two-tined fork to flip them and get them out, so it’s kind of a process. My dad probably learned it from… There’s a town in Iowa where he met my mom and he got married called Orange City Iowa, and it’s one of the most Dutch towns in America. They had a saying. I don’t know if this was a Dutch saying or the non-Dutch people that said it, my dad was mostly Swedish and Irish, and it’s: “If you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much.” So I’m sure he learned it from living in that town. My dad typed out the recipe for Christmas: he gave my brother and I poffertjie pans for Christmas, and then he also gave us the recipe.

ANALYSIS: Wikipedia shows that the dish is frequently made with yeast and buckwheat, but this is not shown in EC’s recipe. Instead, it uses accessible ingredients: a nonspecific type of flour, vegetable oil, etc. It may simply be because yeast and buckwheat aren’t pantry staples in many American households—since the recipe was a gift to his children, EC’s father may have also wanted to ensure that they could actually make it. The gift of the recipe was almost a rite of passage, given to continue the poffertjie legacy in their family but only once they were old enough and living on their own. There are many nonspecific parts of the recipe. The amount of butter and powdered sugar, for instance, are completely vague. These are the portions of the recipe that don’t concern the actual making of the recipe: they’re additions at the end. That being said, EC would know the general amount that’s required from watching her dad make them over the years, taking down that potential barrier. Any people outside of their family who attempted to make them may struggle with that particular step, but the written recipe becomes more of a reminder than a guide for those who are already familiar.



Informant: Well at Christmas we’ll always have Buche de Noel… Which is a French dessert. It’s like, “Christmas log…” And it’s like a cake, and it’s like a roll, you know? Where you roll it up? And you decorate it to like resemble a log, and a lot of times it’ll have like marzipan… Like little marzipan mushrooooms, or little like eeeeelves, or something, and there’ll be like powdered sugar to be like snoooooow. And they’re just like super pretty. And we always do that. 


Informant: We’re not French, but we always do it. My mom did a year abroad in France, so she’s big on France. We go there a lot. All I know is it’s just like a traditional French dessert to have at Christmas. 

Interviewer: Do you make it or buy it?

Informant: We always buy it. We always do catering for Christmas. Cooking or baking is too much pressure. We wanna be like enjoying ourselves. Like for me, I really love baking, but if there’s a lot of people around, I like hate baking. I’ll be like, “Get out of my space. Like stop it. Like leave.”


Buche de Noel began as a tradition because it represented the burning of the Yule log, which is rooted in Pagan rituals. The tradition then evolved from the burning of a log to making and consuming a cake, which has then become cross-culturally adopted, with a German-American family making this French dessert part of their family tradition. This demonstrates how traditions can change over time and become adopted by new people and groups. The informant is attracted to this Christmas cake even without fully understanding its ritual context and history. Instead, she appreciates it for its aesthetic appearance and sweet taste. This is perhaps why, as Elliott Oring writes in Folk Groups and Folklore Genres: an Introduction, “food traditions are likely to be tenacious and survive when other aspects of culture are transformed or disappear” (35). One does not always have to know a food’s ritual context to appreciate its taste or appearance. Thus, food can be adopted by “outsiders.” Buche de Noel is now a part of the informant’s family tradition, and has taken on its own meaning within the Christmas traditions and rituals of her family––a meaning that is separate from the context and meaning it might have to a French family.


Source cited above: Oring, Elliott. Folk Groups and Folklore Genres: an Introduction. Utah State University Press, 1986.

Three Kings’ Day

My friend Rudy, who is Mexican-American, shared the following description with me of how their family celebrates Three Kings’ Day:

“Three Kings’ Day is a really big one- that one we celebrated specifically. So that was like, January 6th, it’s the day that the three wise men finally reach Bethlehem with the baby Jesus. And um we- you’re actually not allowed to throw out your Christmas tree, in like, Mexican culture, like until Three Kings’ Day. So you have to keep your tree until then because that’s like, the official like, end of the season. And like, you put your shoes out and you leave food for the camels and then they fill your shoes with like sweets or a toy as a thank you for um, feeding the camels and giving them a rest. And like as a congratulations for being a good child. And so that was um, always important, and then you have a rosca de reyes which is um, a bread shaped like a crown so it’s like, circular bread. And um, there is sugar on it and dried fruits and there’s also tiny baby Jesuses inside it…There’s like multiple babies in roscas sometimes cause people like, like to play with fire. And um, well it’s like, when you get the slice and you get a baby Jesus inside your slice then you are obligated to throw a party on February second. And that’s the uh, day that Jesus is presented to the temple. Um, so you have to throw the party that day. But at that point it’s less about Jesus and more about more partying.”

When I heard Rudy’s description of the rosca de reyes, I recognized it as a variant of the “king cake” eaten in New Orleans on Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras king cakes are also circular and have a tiny plastic baby representing the baby Jesus baked into them. The version of the king cake tradition I learned from my aunt, who lives in New Orleans, says that the person who gets the baby in their slice has to buy the cake the following year. The king cake/rosca is a prime example of folkloric foodways that are present, but variable, across cultures.

Christmas Eve Soup

I asked my friend if she had any holiday traditions. She told me that on Christmas Eve, her mom prepares soup:

Me: Why soup?

Lindsey: My mom’s side of the family is Irish, so I think it’s tradition in Irish culture to have soup on Christmas. Maybe the warmth of the soup is comforting in wintertime? Also, I think soup is an easy meal to have on Christmas when people would rather be focused on their family than on cooking.

Me: What type of soup does she traditionally make?

Lindsey: It’s just a stew of different vegetables and beef. Really light. Really simple.


Analysis: Having soup on Christmas Eve is not a tradition I had ever heard of. I think the idea of spending time with one’s loved ones instead of cooking in the kitchen makes sense. It is more important to have Christmas with family and invest in quality time, than having an extravagant meal.