Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Baltic Christmas Day 11 - [what I ate] Yule edition

Please welcome first-time contributor to the series, Annika, of the blog Tulen Loobin Su Katusele Kive! Annika has been documenting what she eats on her blog since 2009, providing a fascinating glimpse into the world of Estonian food in easy-to-digest morsels. Today on Day 11 of 24 Days of a Baltic Christmas, Annika is taking us on a photographic journey through time and cuisine…


9 Years of Yule Dinners

Most Estonians are not religious, in fact, we are often labelled to be the “least religious” country in the world. However, Christmas, or more appropriately Yule (in Estonian – Jõulud) is still a big holiday for us. It’s a time when families come together to share food, and Jõuluvana (Old Man of the Yule in direct translation) brings all the well-behaved children some nice presents. It is true that some families still go to church during this time to celebrate the more religious aspect of the holiday, but my family belongs with the non-religious celebrators.

I have been photographing and documenting the food I have eaten for the past 9 years and that includes my family’s Yule feasts. So, I invite you, dear reader, to go down on a trip to memory lane and rediscover 9 years’ worth of traditional and not so traditional Yule dinners of my family with me :)

2009 – Traditional meal at grandparents’ house

Boiled potatoes and gravy, blood sausage, marinated pumpkin, sauerkraut, roasted pork… This was quite a traditional dinner at my grandparent’s place. Usually the blood sausage is also accompanied by lingonberry jam, but I have never been a big fan of it.

2010 – Another family Yule at grandparents’ house

Meat pastries, one of my grandmother’s specialties and a staple of the Yule feast table in our family.

Cooked pork and duck, sauerkraut, boiled potatoes, marinated pumpkin. Another quite traditional dinner, with the addition of duck that year.

2011 – Once more at grandparents’ house

Roast duck and pork, blood sausage, sauerkraut, boiled potatoes, mead.

Chocolate ice cream with wild strawberries. Dessert hasn’t usually been a part of our Yule dinners, but that year the ice cream and strawberries were a fantastic treat.

2012 – a Yule lost to time

There are no photos from this year, because I had my camera malfunction and I lost a few weeks’ worth of photographs. Such a shame. Memory is a fickle thing. I don’t even remember where I spent Yule that year… I imagine it was still at my grandparent’s place, but was it? I can’t be sure, and this is sad.

2013 – A Yule feast for two

I spent that year's Yule alone with my boyfriend at our apartment. It was the first time I cooked the entire Yule dinner on my own. I don’t quite remember why I decided to break from tradition and didn’t make any usual Yule dishes. Instead I roasted a chicken, and made a salad and pumpkin soup.

Pumpkin soup with sour cream, salad, roast chicken, marinated pumpkin.

I also made peanut butter cheesecake. Notice the table cloth? It’s a hand-me-down from my mom and is most likely older than I am.

2014 - getting even more non-traditional

Beef wellington, brie cheese, gnocchi in cream cheese-curry sauce, fresh salad, nuts, fruits. This was another Yule dinner I put together for myself and my boyfriend. I suppose work and school again kept us from joining family festivities, but things like that happen.

Pumpkin pie cheesecake brownie. There wasn’t a single element this year that would have been considered traditional on an Estonian Yule table.

2015 – A step even further away from tradition

Just together with my boyfriend again. I made garlic fried rice and spring rolls with shrimp. I am not certain if this could be considered a proper Christmas/Yule dinner anywhere in the world, but this is what we decided to have xD It’s not that I dislike traditional Estonian Yule foods, but for some reason when I have been in charge of putting together the menu, the usual dishes have been the furthest from my mind.

2016 – Yule with the other side of the family

We spent that Yule with my boyfriend’s side of the family and their relatives. It was a big party instead of a simple small family gathering - a new experience for me. Not only were family and relatives gathered, but friends as well which was also new, because for me Yule has always been a very family centric holiday. It was all quite merry, and the food was plentiful.

Blood sausages, pork schnitzels, boiled potatoes with cream sauce, sauerkraut, meat rolls.

Coffee and delicious delicious condensed milk-chocolate cake.

A very funky Jõuluvana made an appearance at the gathering, bringing laughs and many gifts. Here you can see my boyfriend cheating and reading a poem to Jõuluvana off the internet.

We also made gingerbread cookies that day and I helped to decorate most of them.

2017 – To semi-traditional on our own

Last year during Yule we were busy with work again, so I celebrated with my boyfriend. I made garlicy mashed potatoes, blood sausage and salad, and roasted some beef cuts.

So, these have been my Yule celebrations and dinners for the past 9 years; many fond memories and delicious foods. Thank you for joining me on this trip down the memory lane.

And thank you, Annika, for this look at Estonian holiday dinners – traditional and not-so-traditional! I wish I had a record of what was served during the last decade of our Ziemassvētku dinners!!

Annika blogs at Tulen Loobin Su Kausele Kive! I think you’ll enjoy scrolling through her feed; it’s somewhat voyeuristic, but wholly fascinating. In addition to being interested in what the average person in Estonia eats, it’s also fun to see familiar foods (to us Balts) pop up here and there... Please visit her on Instagram at @roadwafflez, and tell us in the comments – which one of her annual Yule meals looks the most like yours?

Tomorrow, on Day 12.... carp!

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