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An English Christmas Dinner with Agatha Christie

IN THE December 22 ISSUE

FROM THE 2012 Articles,
andChristina Morgan Cree,
andFood Fun,
andMysteryrat's Maze
SECTIONS

by Christina Morgan Cree

“The real old-fashioned type of Christmas…an English Christmas with all the family gathered round, the children and their stockings, the Christmas tree, the turkey and plum pudding, the crackers.”- The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding

Agatha Christie spent her Christmases as a child at Abney Hall, a picturesque, grand estate in the North of England. The entire family would come together to celebrate. She recalls it as a very happy time. The cousins would have a contest to see who could eat the most at Christmas dinner and they could have their fill of candied fruits and chocolates. The grounds of Abney Hall were a wonderland with gardens, a stream and waterfall, and all kinds of places to explore.

Ever since I first watched Hercule Poirot’s Theft of the Royal Ruby based on the short story Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, I have wanted to do a traditional English Christmas dinner complete with paper crowns and a flaming Plum Pudding.

The Pudding

The English cuisine is very different from American fare. There is a vast array of chutneys, marmalades, and ketchups (that aren’t ketchup) which are full of fruits and nuts and things that I would have never have thought to put together. When my British friend was describing the Plum Pudding to me she said, “There aren’t any plums in it. There are raisins, dried cranberries…the more fruit in it, the better.” I said, “That sounds like a fruitcake. Nobody likes fruitcake. You know what the joke about fruitcake is? That it’s just one fruitcake that gets passed around and re-gifted year after year.”

The Christmas Pudding is a very important part of the meal. It all starts on “Stir Up Sunday”, the first day of Advent, when all the ingredients are mixed together (13 ingredients to represent Christ and his Disciples). It is stirred from East to West in honor of the three wise men. Each family member takes a turn stirring the pudding while making a secret wish.

More on Christmas pudding http://resources.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/customs/xmas/christmaspudding.html

Christmas Pudding how to http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/christmaspudding_90194
http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/grandmasrichchristma_70060

The Cracker

Along with dinner there is the pulling of the Christmas cracker which is a bright colored paper tube containing a paper crown (that you must wear), a small toy or trinket, a joke and a ‘bang’ when you pull it apart. My friend told me that there is an art to pulling the cracker. While sitting around the table, each person takes their cracker in their right hand and crosses their arms. With the left hand take hold of the end of the person’s cracker to your right. Make sure you have hold of the strip of paper on the inside of the tube or the element will pull through and not pop. Then at the same time, everyone pulls the crackers apart.

All about Christmas Crackers http://resources.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/customs/xmas/crackers.html

Here are two Christmas dinner menus: one is close to the dinner Agatha Christie describes having at her family gatherings as a child and the other is the one I’ll be using this year. It’s authentic, but I chose dishes that are a little closer to the American taste.

Christmas Dinner at Abney Hall

Oyster Soup
Turbot
Roast Turkey
Sirloin of Beef
Plum Pudding
Mince Pie (Homemade Mincemeat)
Trifle

My English Christmas Dinner menu
Christmas roast beef and Yorkshire Puddings
Roast Potatoes
Roast Parsnips in beef fat
Brussels Sprouts
Lashings of Good Beef Gravy
Horseradish Cream
Flaming Plum Pudding

Don’t forget the after dinner mystery:
The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding (or Theft of the Royal Ruby, TV episode starring David Suchet)
Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (novel or movie with David Suchet)

A very happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year!

Christina Morgan Cree is an enthusiastic Agatha Christie buff. She’s seen nearly every film adaptation and read almost every book. She lives in Santa Cruz with her three children and divides her time between fashion design, performing on stage and writing. Finding inspiration everywhere, she squeezes the most she can out of each day chasing ideas, over-analyzing everything and loving the people around her.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 kathleenkaska@hotmail.comNo Gravatar
Twitter: @KKaskaAuthor
December 22, 2012 at 12:16pm

You hooked me with oyster soup!

Reply

2 Christina Morgan CreeNo Gravatar
Twitter: @cmorgancree
December 23, 2012 at 3:33pm

Ha! That seemed to be a favorite of Agatha Christie’s. It was part of the Christmas dinners of her childhood and she mentions it in her Poirot story “Adventure of the Christmas Pudding”. Let me know how it is if you end up making it-and Happy Christmas!

Reply

3 pat gulleyNo Gravatar December 23, 2012 at 8:03am

Great article, Christina. i’m a major AC fan too. Did they serve any vegtables or potatoes? Or were they just never mentioned on a menu?
Merry Christmas.
Patg

Reply

4 Christina Morgan CreeNo Gravatar
Twitter: @cmorgancree
December 23, 2012 at 3:38pm

Thank you, Pat! I got my information about Agatha Christie’s childhood Christmas menu from a forward she wrote for “Adventure of the Christmas Pudding”. She doesn’t mention vegetables, but in my research of traditional English Christmas dishes roasted potatoes, roasted parsnips, and brussel sprouts were the ones that came up most. Merry Christmas to you, too!

Christina

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