Holiday Dessert Roundup: Mincemeat Pie

Mince pie cut in half with background blur.
Photo Credit: By Jonathan Farber on Unsplash

From my last few posts, it’s clear that I love holiday sweets. Gingerbread is a holiday staple and eggnog might be my favorite holiday treat. But there’s another one that I haven’t written about — mincemeat pie.

First, let me clarify. Most mincemeat pies do NOT have meat in them. They are made with dried fruits and spices. While we call them mincemeat in New England, apparently in most other places, they’re called mince.

Personally, I’ve never made a mincemeat pie. One of my mom’s sisters, is the pie maker for our holiday meals and we are often blessed with one of her mincemeat pies. After a brief Twitter exchange with someone, I realized that not all families are so blessed! We had one for Thanksgiving and I’m hopeful for Christmas too! Served warm with vanilla ice cream, it’s a carousel of delicious flavors and textures.

I started wondering if enjoying mincemeat pies is more of a regional thing. The pie does have its roots in England. Growing up in New England may have skewed my views. Although for a period of time, Connecticut banned mincemeat pies. Those Puritans were no joke.

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Mincemeat pie is a holiday treat that has been enjoyed by many for a very long time, according to a recent article on Haiwatha World.

Mincemeat pie finds its roots in the 11th century — the Crusades, to be more precise. Returning crusaders brought back valuable spices — cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg — from the Holy Land, and these three spices were used to season a special “Christmas pie,” to represent the three gifts of the Magi to the infant Jesus Christ. Christmas pies were small, and could be eaten in a few bites. These pies were made in an oblong shape to resemble a cradle, and space was left for a Christ child figure to be placed on top. (The figure was removed before eating.) It was considered to be lucky to eat one Christmas pie for each of the twelve days of Christmas, between December 25 and Epiphany, January 6. The mincemeat filling of these pies was indeed almost entirely meat, but cooked with rum and spices, which acted as a preservative, as well as giving it its distinctive flavor.

With my increasing interest in all things mincemeat pie, I decided to do some additional research on the latest news and have assembled a roundup for your (and my) holiday reading pleasure. Enjoy!

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– Here’s a recipe for a boozy Baileys mince pie.

– Selfridges was selling a mini mince pie advent calendar.

Mince pie filled cookies are a thing!

– A mince pie sandwich is also a thing.

– Is mince pie flavored popcorn going too far?!

– Caffè Nero is offering mince pies in the UK for the Christmas season, but not in the US.  Not even in New England.

– Here’s a recipe for mincemeat crumble cake.

– The Helen M. Kelly Memorial Mince Pie has been in this family’s fridge since 1988.

Mince pie bao buns are for sale on Amazon Fresh UK.

– Parenthood won the best Thanksgiving TV dinner and the mincemeat pie had a lot to do with it.

– Grocery story Lidl has mince pie ice cream!

– A Dublin restaurant took the meat part of mincemeat too literally for Professor Darryl Jones.

– An American website had a similar meat problem with its mincemeat pie recipe.

– Try Queen Elizabeth’s royal recipe for mince pie. No meat included!

– If you’re ready to go absolutely medieval, try this mincemeat pie recipe that includes pork shoulder roast and bacon.

– And guess who has never tried mincemeat pie? I apologize in advance.

Prince Gave Me Religion

Prince_fashion

When I heard that Prince died, I was in shock and in transit. Between home and work. When I got on the train, my hands were shaking as I texted my friend the unbelievable and sad news.  So many thoughts swirled in my head all at once. I thought he was alright. He was supposed to be recovering from the flu. Not dead.

Now I am even more grateful that I saw Prince perform live in 2004, when he was here in Boston. The chance to see him came out of the blue. In the middle of the workday, a friend and co-worker told me that she had just gotten tickets and asked if I wanted to go that night.

Did I want to go?! Of course I wanted to go! It was probably the best show of my life. He played for three hours non-stop. His band took a break and he kept going. Playing the guitar alone and talking to all of us in the audience. He gave that show his all. It was amazing.

When I heard that Prince died, I flashed back to college. It was around 1986 and I had tried in vain to win tickets to his concert. I used to be quite good at winning radio station contests and had hoped that my luck would continue. I didn’t have the money to buy tickets, so winning was the only way that I could possibly attend the concert. I didn’t win. I will never forget that moment of realization that I wasn’t going to the concert — sitting at a table in Usdan cafeteria practically in tears and inconsolable. Thinking I will never see Prince and my life is horrible.

When I heard that Prince died, I flashed back to high school and had to laugh. I remembered being at home with a new Prince poster on the wall in my room. He was dripping wet in the shower, wearing a black bikini and a very provocative look on his face. My father walked in to the room. Looked at the picture. Shook his head and walked out.

I was not raised in the church, so I did not learn most of the things that most church-going kids know. Like the Lord’s Prayer. Yup. Prince taught me the Lord’s Prayer. The only reason I can even pretend to recite it today is because I played Controversy so many times. I even feel guilty knowing it, because of how I learned it. While I was playing that song, Dirty Mind, D.M.S.R., Let’s Pretend We’re Married and so many other songs from his many albums that I had back then, my thoughts were anything but pious.

Prince_in_spotlight

Since Prince died, I’ve read so many articles about him and how he was so much more than his music. Especially for those that knew him well. Prince truly cared about people and the world and wanted to make it a better place. He was a philanthropist in secret and now so many of his good works are coming to light. He was a fan of the Black Lives Matter movement and supported them without any public acknowledgement.

Prince quietly was a force behind #Yes We Code, an organization founded to help young people of color learn to code, so they have the skills to be part of the tech industry. The more I learn about Prince, the more I like and admire him.

Seeing all the fans in Minnesota talking about Prince as one of their own reminds us all of the regional nature of the United States. It says something about his character that he stayed in Minnesota. He didn’t forget where he came from and stayed centered no matter how famous he became.

There’s a great article on Yahoo! where entertainment industry insiders reflect on their encounters with Prince. Singer-songwriter Louise Goffin wrote about the time she got to dance with Prince at a party.

I was on the stairs near the ladies room, and out of nowhere I see Prince standing around, and shy as can be. All of a sudden Sex Machine by James Brown comes on and I look over at him and he looks at me and says “you know this?” I say “of course I know this, I wasn’t born yesterday!” And he looks up devilishly and says… “wanna dance?” and reaches out to grab my hand. I’m losing my mind, not believing what’s happening and he leads me down the stairs to the dance floor (disco lights, the whole bit), and we’re bumping into people who at first act annoyed and then turn around and see its him. I’m hearing some people I know say “look it’s Prince! and then a second later, saying oh my God, it’s Louise!” Its the truth. I danced with Prince to James Brown’s Sex Machine.

Prince_pancakes

As a food blogger, one of my favorite stories is about food and from an article on Vulture from Prince’s former butler.

I have a lot of great memories but the one that made me laugh was there was one night where I got a call at about 3 am in the morning and he wanted breakfast for 14 people. I was the only butler on duty during that graveyard shift. He asked for 14 omelets and 14 orders of pancakes. I called everyone in the casino and had all the cooks running to make this order while I made the table. I had to serve the whole breakfast at now 4am in the morning by myself. I came up with the two carts full of food trying to plate it as fast as I can when Prince stood up from his chair and walked over to my cart. He grabbed a plate of pancakes and started helping me serve.

With all these new stories coming out, we are all being flooded with many feelings, memories and emotions. Based on what those closest to Prince have to say, he would want his death to inspire us to do better and “level-up” by pushing ourselves to the next level. Figuring out what is next for each of us and then actually doing it. Because he certainly always did.

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Flickr Photo Credits: Top photo by Derek Wolfgram. Middle photo by Jason Lei.

Recently Read: Attractive Unattractive Americans

Attractive Unattractive Americans book coverAfter  reading Attractive Unattractive Americans by René Zografos, I had several very strong reactions. I truly enjoyed the book and took so many notes as I was reading that I cannot possibly mention them all.

I thought it was hilarious that many people who are not American think that we are overly dramatic. OMG! How could that be?!

I don’t think I’ve have ever seen an American reality-TV show without a huge theater scene. It’s always someone who is ill, or who recently lost a family member or something else sad, and they always seem to mention that the reason they are on that particular TV show is because of them–that they want to honor their loved one or hardship. Then everyone cries and feels so sad. For people outside of America that is rather strange behavior–all these dramatic scenes on everyday television.

We can probably all agree that reality TV is rather fake, but we Americans do use a lot of superlatives and know how to hype things up.

However, the older I get, the more I also see that real life is dramatic. Between things going on in my own life and people that I know, it could be show or movie that would be so over the top that much of it would not be believed. Life is stranger than fiction.

The book has commentary about the United States written by the author, but he also interviewed people from all over the world on their views of Americans. Zografos has a very interesting background himself — half Greek and half Norwegian.

The book is fairly short and an easy read, but goes into great detail about many areas of daily American life. The topics are extensive. He talks about work life balance. How Americans work very hard, but don’t have much vacation time and often do not get to travel. He discusses issues of violence, social justice, charity, compassion, products made in America and more. Americans are described as happy and friendly, but how this sometimes comes off as fake.

This would be a great book for a book club, because so much lively discussion and debate would be generated. Especially if the group were a diverse mix of people. It would be good in the classroom too.

Since I’m all about food, I found a quote by Jaqueline from Brazil, particularly bizarre. She clearly had a very bad and limited cookie tasting experience while she was here. No doubt a World Peace Cookie never made its way into her mouth.

American cookies actually taste like plain sugar. They’re not edible for my taste. All these cookies full of sugar make me nauseous, and they must make Americans chubby.

It was interesting how Zografos did many comparisons between Americans and Norwegians. At first, I was reminded of a Norwegian Apple Cake that I baked after seeing a recipe on Tracy’s blog. She is an American expat blogger living in Norway.

So, I was quite surprised by his writing about violence in Norway and how criminals often are not prosecuted. In some ways the book may seem simplistic, with some of the short quotes and cartoons in the beginning. But when he gets going and really starts analyzing, he digs deep. This is not a superficial book. He also understands the regional quality of the United States and mentions several places.

Seattle is my number one city in the U.S., followed by San Francisco. New York City is a solid number three on my list. I enjoy nature and the sea, and New York is in many ways a nutshell of urban USA, but still with a fair amount of European influence. I must add that I have never been to Boston, although I suspect that Boston will be my very favorite when I finally do visit.

Yes, I agree with you! We have it all here in Boston! The author has such a unique perspective on so many subjects, that I was having mini-imaginary conversations with him as I was reading. I really like how he talked about the idea of the American Dream and how the process of writing the book changed him –transformed his life.

Your own journey toward your goals will itself create happiness. ~ René Zografos

I love the phrase Carpe Diem and have a necklace with the words inscribed. When I wear it, it feels like a talisman letting me more fully enjoy the present. This book is like one big Carpe Diem. The author did it and he’s telling us to as well.

As the book winds down, you can feel the author’s optimism and passion for life gearing up.

Live now. Go from words to actions; be a doer and an achiever, not only a dreamer. Dare to find your own path, because if you do, the most wonderful thing in life can and will happen to you. Some Americans already understand this and, as a result, they are living extraordinary lives. …

[A]s long as I follow my passion, I am living my dream–my American dream–and the only voice I need to listen to is my own–to what I need deep down inside. Thanks to the process and journey of writing this book, I now also feel different and more open, a better human being, almost invincible and more American, somehow. I have accomplished writing a book in a foreign language. It took me many years with small steps every day, and I made it through the storm, as I have done before. As a consequence of writing this book, it has resulted in priceless meetings with wonderful people and cultures. A true gift was given to me: I achieved happiness.

After finishing this book, the author’s words and feelings have lingered. Not only is this book about Americans, but it’s about finding that courage within ourselves to live out our dreams.

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Disclsoure: Review copy of book received from Smith Publicity.

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Screenshot: Amazon

Harvard University Dining: Meatballs Inspired by the Art of Corita Kent

Corita Kent Makes Meatballs SingBack in January, I wrote a post about a Corita Kent art exhibit in Pittsburgh. Those of us in the Boston area know her work from the bright colors on the gas tank by the expressway. But her art extends far beyond that.

Last month, a new exhibit of her work called, “Corita Kent and the Language of Pop” made its debut at Harvard Art Museums. The exhibit does not end until May 8, 2016*, so we have time to plan to see it — for those of us who are local or even if you are planning a trip to the Boston area. I will definitely make my way over there!

As a celebration of the exhibit, last week Harvard University Dining Services hosted a Corita Night in the dining halls. They asked, “what would happen if food and art collided?”

The Harvard Gazette reported that Chefs answered the question by creating meatballs inspired by her image “song about the greatness,” which was used in a DelMonte ketchup ad and reads “Makes meatballs sing.”

Luke Parker, Winthrop House’s senior chef, drew on his love of spice and dished out Thai chicken meatballs seasoned with curry, lemongrass, and coconut milk. …

Over in Leverett House, chef Kathleen Smith drew on her travels in Mexico — and her Mexican boyfriend — to create the night’s menu. Her albondigas came drenched in a spicy chipotle sauce.

Sounds like a delicious menu and shows how Corita Kent‘s art is timeless and continues to inspire us all.

*Updated 4/3/2016* I was just watching a segment on CBS Sunday Morning about Corita Kent and realized that I got the dates wrong on this post. Unfortunately the exhibit at Harvard ended in January and I missed it again! Ugh! Well, if you are near San Antonio, you do have until May 8th to see it.

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Image Credit: song about the greatness, © Courtesy of the Corita Art Center, Immaculate Heart Community, Los Angeles, Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Margaret Fisher Fund.

On Family: Tradition, Obligation & Gender

part of the family from film

If you have about 12 minutes to spare, this film, Houshi Ryokan is worth taking the time to watch. Houshi Ryokan is a hotel that was founded in the Hokuriku region of Japan and is one of the oldest family businesses in the world. It was founded in 718 and close to 50 generations have kept it going for its 1,300 years.

The film profiles the family — an elderly couple and their unmarried daughter. The mother had an arranged marriage and wants something different for her adult child.

The daughter is seeking a life for herself, but she loves her parents and is feeling torn. Her brother died unexpectedly and the family is figuring out how to go forward.

Even though this family is so far away from me in terms of distance, language and culture, their story transcends all that. I feel for all of them.

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Image: Screenshot via Vimeo