I've always enjoyed learning how to make foods from around the world. Discovering new ingredients and methods not only helps to broaden your palate, it also gives you a little insight into different cultures. Ingredients are often chosen because of availability- what is most easily grown, foraged or purchased. The best methods are those that are passed on from generation to generation- lovingly taught or deciphered from well-worn hand written recipes. Celebrations are an especially good time to reconnect with old traditions and memories, or better yet start some new ones!
Each culture has it's own unique dishes- some eaten regularly, some reserved for holidays and special occasions. Fermented foods are often a part of these meals, but if not, they can easily be incorporated.
In England, Mince Pies are a Christmas tradition. The filling is made of dried fruits and spices, but why not try fermenting the fruits before dehydrating?
Eastern Europeans celebrate with Borscht (fermented beets and cabbage help take flavor to the next level), Sauerkraut-filled dumplings, and how about a sourdough Babka?
Latkes are a must in Israeli and Jewish households. Try fermenting the grated potato before frying in patties. Make them even better by serving with homemade fermented applesauce & sour cream.
We all know how popular Kimchi is in Korean culture, but Kimchi Mandu (dumplings)? Awesome! They're served crispy-fried, steamed, or with Tteokguk soup for Lunar New Year.
In the Middle East, yogurt is a staple at gatherings- in sauces, spreads, salad dressings, meat marinades and more.
Along with Christmas tamales in Mexico, Atole is often served. This warm, sweet-spiced corn masa beverage can be fermented to add flavor & probiotic benefit.
Germans love their Sauerkraut, but Blaukraut (sweet & sour red cabbage) can also be made using fermented red cabbage. And don't forget the Gluhwein (warm mulled wine)!
Africa has a diverse variety of dishes. Benne Cakes (sesame seed cookies) are especially popular for celebrations. Adding a little kefir can give them some zip. In Eastern Africa, the fermented sourdough bread Injera is used to scoop and sop up rich meat and vegetable stews.
Norwegians enjoy Lefse- a thin potato pancake that can be made even better by adding a little kefir to the batter, and using cultured butter.
This, of course, comes nowhere near to representing all of the wonderful varieties of foods out there. Whatever your plans may be this holiday season, food is guaranteed to be a part of it. Use it as a tool- not only for nutrition, but also for education, continuing tradition, creativity and just good old fun. Try something new this year!