Clas­sic foods, films add to spirit of the hol­i­days

The Daily Press (Timmins) - - NEWS - Karen Bach­mann Karen Bach­mann is the di­rec­tor/cu­ra­tor of the Tim­mins Mu­seum and a writer of lo­cal his­tory.

how’s the christ­mas thing go­ing for you so far? is your gift finding (and buy­ing and wrap­ping) all un­der control? is the bak­ing hum­ming along or are you trapped in an eter­nal “i am bak­ing, you are eat­ing it all, ergo i am bak­ing” tread­mill of ex­is­tence?

have you maxed out on christ­mas movie watch­ing (odds bod­kins, but me­thinks that “elf ” is no longer the go-to movie for TV ex­ecs this sea­son – hal­lelu­jah! – and no dis­re­spect meant to Will Far­rell fans).

Well, if you have ev­ery­thing un­der control (or you need a break from it all), read on to dis­cover a few use­less bits of christ­mas trivia…

let’s start with a lit­tle com­mer­cial christ­mas bit, brought to you by a cou­ple of broth­ersin-law.

back in 1939, mont­gomery Ward, the chicago based depart­ment store, would give out pro­mo­tional colour­ing books to shop­pers as an en­tice­ment to come in and shop. they used to buy the books for the give­away, but then de­cided to pro­duce their own, us­ing den­ver mills, a cre­ative guy from their art depart­ment.

they then asked robert may, a copy­writer in their ad depart­ment, to pro­vide a story to ac­com­pany the il­lus­tra­tions. he came up with rudolph, the rednosed rein­deer, and a christ­mas su­per­star was born.

may had a brother-in-law by the name of Johnny marks who hap­pened to be a song­writer who con­trib­uted many of the pop­u­lar christ­mas pieces we still en­joy to­day: “rockin’ around the christ­mas tree”, “a holly Jolly christ­mas” and “i heard the bells on christ­mas day” (in­ter­est­ingly, mr. marks was Jewish). marks put the colour­ing book story to mu­sic and came up with two songs: “rudolph the red-Nosed rein­deer” and “run run rudolph”. he also wrote the songs fea­tured in the tele­vi­sion christ­mas spe­cial fea­tur­ing rudolph and the is­land of mis­fit toys.

by the way, in the orig­i­nal ver­sion of that clas­sic, rudolph and his friends never help the mis­fit toys. test au­di­ences did not like that cyn­i­cal end­ing, so an ad­di­tional scene was added at the end that sees rudolph lead Santa to the is­land where he can col­lect the toys – to the im­mense re­lief of mis­fits ev­ery­where.

Of course, mu­sic is a big part of the sea­son (and right­fully so).

“Santa claus lane”, as in the song “here comes Santa claus, right down Santa claus lane” is an ac­tual place, though you prob­a­bly won’t find any ice and snow on the road. Since the 1930s, hol­ly­wood boule­vard (in hol­ly­wood, calif., of course) has been re-named Santa claus lane in hon­our of the Gene autry song.

and while you may hear that song 50 times a day dur­ing the sea­son, it is not the most pop­u­lar christ­mas carol.

that hon­our goes to bing crosby’s “White christ­mas”, which was first pre­sented in the movie “hol­i­day inn” with crosby and Fred as­taire (my fa­vorite christ­mas movie – ex­cept­ing for the black­face rou­tine – which has now been cut from the film). bing’s ver­sion of the song is the world’s best-sell­ing sin­gle of all time – with sales in ex­cess of 100 mil­lion copies. an ad­di­tional 50 mil­lion copies by other artists helped make this the song the fa­vorite it is!

the most rec­og­nized hymn is the aus­trian carol “Silent Night”, a piece that was hastily writ­ten by Pas­tor Joseph mohr. it seems their or­gan went “ka­put!” the day of the christ­mas eve ser­vice, so the good pas­tor along with his friend Franz Gru­ber wrote the hymn and per­formed it that evening us­ing his gui­tar. the rest is his­tory.

What we eat is also a big part of the christ­mas sea­son and “spe­cial foods” still make an ap­pear­ance, al­though we seem to eat what­ever we want when­ever we want dur­ing the course of the year. Plum pud­dings were ac­tu­ally a soup made by boil­ing beef and mut­ton with dried prunes (no won­der i have never had an urge to see it on my ta­ble), wine and spices. a very in­tel­li­gent cook later got rid of the prunes and mut­ton (smart move) and re­placed them with raisins, eggs and bread­crumbs, mak­ing it more like a boiled cake and less like a pud­ding. Plums, mostly in the sev­en­teenth cen­tury, could mean any dried fruit (like apri­cots or cher­ries, and some­times, shock­ingly, even real plums!). Sug­arplums were usu­ally made from dried fruit dredged in su­gar – they are the fa­mous can­dies dreamt about by chil­dren in cle­ment moore’s poem “twas the Night be­fore christ­mas”, as well as the in­spi­ra­tion for the Sug­arplum Fairy in tchaikovsky ’s “the Nutcracker”.

While we may not all be en­joy­ing the plum pud­ding this sea­son, you can visit a bak­ery in town any time in de­cem­ber and be treated to “la buche de noel”, a tra­di­tional French cake baked at christ­mas. Pas­try chefs in Paris started the tra­di­tion in the 1870’s, and ev­ery sel­f­re­spect­ing patis­serie still makes its own ver­sion for the hol­i­day sea­son. Shaped like the tra­di­tional yule log, the cake is made from a thinly rolled sponge cake filled with ei­ther jam or cream (my per­sonal fa­vorite), and dec­o­rated with ic­ing ap­plied to look like bark, marzi­pan holly leaves (or glit­tery repli­cas). they are some­times adorned with a tiny wooden or plas­tic axe.

and with that, i in­vite you all to join us at the mu­seum this evening be­tween 5 and 7 p.m. to light-up our christ­mas tree. Santa will be here in per­son and is ready to hear your re­quests; car­ol­ers, mu­sic and hot cho­co­late com­plete the evening.

Para­mount Pic­tures/PhoTofesT

The song “White Christ­mas”, sung by Bing Crosby and Mar­jorie Reynolds, first ap­peared in the 1942 film “Hol­i­day Inn”. The song was writ­ten by Irv­ing Ber­lin and would be­come the best-sell­ing sin­gle of all time. Shown from left: Mar­jorie Reynolds, Bing Crosby, Fred As­taire.

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