TORONTO – Tradition is one of the most important aspects of the Christmas season for Ricardo Larrivee.
“Whatever your parents were doing, try to do it again, and if you have no tradition, create some and stick to this year after year and eventually it becomes something that means something to everyone,” says the Quebec celeb chef, who is married with three daughters, ages 17, 15 and 12.
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Along with turkey and all the trimmings, an important component of the celebration is transferring family lore to the next generation. In his home, all the children sit at the same table as the adults for the Dec. 25 feast.
Larrivee disagrees with feeding young kids a different menu at a separate table or even in another room, so he’s devised a way to encourage youngsters to linger with the adults.
“I create these nice cookie houses. Every child has a gingerbread house in front of (them) full of candy, so as soon as they’re done eating, then they will stay at the table with us and they will just enjoy themselves decorating these houses and just having fun at the table,” Larrivee explains.
“You don’t want them to run away from these conversations. You want them to hear the same stories … year after year you’ll come back with things that happened in the year, you’ll celebrate what’s to come and (create) memories.”
The evening of Dec. 24th is devoted to a party with neighbours and close friends.
“I use the wood-oven pizza stove outside. It can be a storm, can be minus 30, we don’t care,” says Larrivee.
Down Under, Christmas Day can be hot and sunny, giving rise to a number of different food traditions for Australians.
“We have a mix usually because we’re English colonial background so a lot of people still do traditional Christmas — which on a 35-degree (Celsius) day can be challenging — with a swim at the beach in the middle of it,” says magazine editor and food stylist Donna Hay.
“We can do the whole glazed ham thing and roast turkey, roast vegetables even and salads, but then there’s other people that do that half and then they do prawns and smoked salmon and ocean trout and lobster and there’s a mix of really beautiful fresh seafood in with the glazed ham,” she said in the fall while visiting Toronto to promote her new cookbook, “The New Easy.”
“And there’s the people that (find) it’s just too hot and they do salads and seafood and they do some cold ham. And ice cream pudding instead of normal pudding.”
Hay always makes her grandmother’s traditional pudding recipe to please her mother. This year, she planned to concoct a raspberry white chocolate trifle too, which her sister prefers.
Lidia Bastianich likes to keep the food traditions of Italy alive. The TV host and restaurateur serves a festive fish dinner including baccala, or salted codfish, on Christmas Eve.
The next day, “the house is full of emotion from the big breakfast on,” she says by phone from New York.
“On Christmas Day itself I present a big antipasto. That’s easy,” says the author of “Lidia’s Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine.” She serves the assortment of cold cuts, cheeses, artichokes, olives, fresh vegetables and seafood salad buffet style.
The first sit-down course is soup and pasta. “But I don’t have a whole big lot of pasta because people eat a lot of pasta and then they leave the meat behind.”
She serves both roasted pork and beef — along with goose for the adults.
“Of course the children are not into goose yet. The breast of goose is not white like turkey. It’s a dark meat. And that’s the best part. But I put it there. Eventually they’ll have it,” says Bastianich.