TNB Night Owl – Mince Words

Christmas dinner table. Photo by Miia Ranta.

Mincemeat is a traditional pie filling from Great Britain, and it has a centuries-long history of being used as a celebratory food at Christmas. Despite the name, it does not contain any meat products. It usually incorporates suet fat but butter can be swapped for suet fat for vegetarian options. The key to the delicacy is the mixture of fruits used… raisins, figs, cherries, apples, currants, citrus zest and more can be found in various interpretations of mincemeat.

The misleading name comes from cultural changes. The earliest known versions of the pie didn’t merely incorporate suet, they used actual meat, and almost exclusively so. The pies served as a way to preserve mutton or, on occasion, beef for short durations.

Meat pies’ use at Christmas were directly associated with soldiers returning from the Crusades. Nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves were used to spice the meat in representation of the three gifts of the Magi and the pies were served at holiday feasts.

This is what led to the ban, and one of the most famous legal misconceptions in the UK.

In 1644, amidst the English Civil War, Christmas fell on a mandated day of fasting, and no mince pies were eaten. In 1647, during the Long Parliament of the Interregnum, all Christmas celebrations were banned, and mince pies were understood to be part of that ban.

These laws, however old, were never officially revoked. Because of that, it is widely believed in some circles that mince pies are technically illegal to eat on Christmas. However, in the UK, laws must be formally acknowledged by their royalty. As the entire point of the Interregnum was that they had removed their monarch, none of the laws of that period were considered valid as soon as they crowned Charles II in 1660.

If you’re in the mood for some truly classic dessert this Christmas season, some spiced dried fruits in a pie crust might be a perfect choice, even if you’re on lockdown in the UK.

Question of the night: What food are you most looking forward to on Christmas?

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.