Last Word: Father Christmas

Santa shares his festive favourites

I like Christmas as much as the next man, woman or reindeer, but between you and I, the food can be a bit of a challenge. You see, I have simple tastes, so my favourite stop-off points on Chrismas Eve are the UK and Australia, where the children leave me Christmas cookies and sherry (hic..).

Some of the other countries I visit have some very strange culinary habits, however, but being Father Christmas and thus the jolliest, most festive person on Earth, I am expected to embrace every tradition, no matter how peculiar.

Take Greenland, where Christmas means muktuk (slices of narwhal hide and blubber), served raw with kiviak – an unholy combination of an auk (a dead one, presumably) and seal skin, in which the auk is wrapped and then buried. It’s left to ferment in the ground for a few months and once the auk is in an advanced state of decomposition (could this get any more delicious?), it’s ready to eat. Thank goodness the elves like it…

Rudolph and co are a big help in southern Africa, where the kind people leave me plates of mopane worms for my Christmas Eve supper. They’re not actually worms, they’re moth caterpillars which are fried with onions, tomatoes and chili. The reindeer love them, fortunately, as they aren’t quite my thing.

But I do love the laufabrauo (leaf bread) left out for me by children in Iceland. It’s less like bread than a thin, crispy wafer made from dough shaped into patterned discs which are fried in mutton fat. It is delicious! I also love the rice pudding left out for the elves in Denmark, but the hay and water left out in Agentina does nothing for me or, indeed, for the reindeer, but don’t tell anyone I said that.

Mrs Claus likes me to bring home sackfuls of smalahove from Norway, which is a dried, salted sheep’s head. It’s a bit of a palaver to make, because you have to split the sheep’s head in two, remove the brain and soak the pieces in water for two days, which is nice in a Hannibal Lecter sort of way. It is then salted, dried, smoked and boiled and Mrs Claus says tradition dictates you have to eat the ears and eyes first and then eat the meat from the front of the skull back. Does that sound festive to you? Me neither, but the elves and Mrs C lap it up.

My greatest pleasure is left for me by the children of Chile. It’s pan de Pascua – a rich, dense fruit cake with rum served a cup of cola de mono (tail of donkey) which is made of warmed milk with sugar, cloves, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, coffee and – the best bit – lots of rum, which always gets December 25 off to a good start. Then it’s back to Mrs Claus for roast turkey and all the trimmings followed by Christmas pudding (no narwal or sheep heads). Ho, ho, ho!

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