DiscoverInteresting If TrueInteresting If True - Episode 34: Happy Holiday Hoedown
Interesting If True - Episode 34: Happy Holiday Hoedown

Interesting If True - Episode 34: Happy Holiday Hoedown

Update: 2020-12-25
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Welcome to Interesting If True, the podcast that fits perfectly in your stocking, right next to that moldy orange.


I’m your host this week, Aaron, and with me are Shea,


I’m Shea, and this week I learned that the moral of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is that no one likes you unless you’re useful.


I’m Steve, and I’m back baby!


Stuffed To The Stockings


I spent this last weekend making a few hundred cookies—also, team, I hope you like cookies cause that’s what you’re getting—and while Googling cookie recipes I also found… this stuff.


So, for a very 2020-appropriate holiday special, I bring you the worst things people might try to feed you on the longest night of the year…


Of course there are the staples like Fruitcake, which I think, might actually include staples.


This dense, flavorless, unforgiving calorie-brick only rears its ugly head on the holiday’s, a time when you’re supposed to show people that… you know… you like them. Still, the world is full of poor, missguided souls who think their friends and family actually want a savory cake so densely filled with canned fruit-cocktail rejects, ex-grapes, and bad liquor that they bend light and reason into their gravity well of terribleness.


The fruitcake tradition goes back to ancient Rome when people would make oat and barley cakes, just to make sure it was extra terrible I guess, and mix in pomegranate seeds, pine nuts, and raisins. Though, they could be forgiven because literally anything except dying of yee-oldie rot was the best thing in the world. Foruntantly, as a people we’ve… mostly figured out how to stop making everything a test of one’s mettle.



Unless you live in Australia that is, because in the land of literally-everything-is-trying-to-kill-you of course they consider fruitcake a year-round treat. I guess it is better than dying of dropbear STDs.


In Ireland the fruitcake will actually try to kill you. Apparently, it’s traditional to bake barmbrack on Hallowe’en with coins, rings, and other small choking hazards.


Ah shelf stable, open-air, bread. What could be better?


Booze.


It would seem that most fruitcake recipes and variations work in a great deal of alcohol. Usually the “fruit” is soaked for weeks before being used but in variations like those in the Anglophone Caribbean booze is an important ingredient because you’re trying to make, essentially, a very drunken English Christmas pudding log. Some recipes call for so much alcohol, and for the cake to be wrapped in an alcohol soaked cloth, that they’ll last more or less forever. For example, the Ford family in Tecumseh, Michigan considers the fruitcake their great, great, I-lost-count, great grandpa made in 1878 an family heirloom. They even got Jay Leno to eat a bit on air and he didn’t die, so that’s nice. The oldest consumable fruitcake on record is the 109-year-old cake discovered in 2017 by the Antarctic Heritage Trust.


And now that we’ve go to the obligatory “fruitcakes are terrible” story out of the way, let’s put something inside a seal.


Yep, as in a water-puppy.



This is Kiviak—or as it’s more commonly known, Satan’s Turkduken—is a traditional dish from Greenland. Apparently, Inuits needed a source of vitamins, minerals, and stank during the deep winter months so they did the only logical thing, they hollowed out a seal—their phrase, not mine—and filled up the seal-sack with four or five hundred dead Auk birds, beaks, feathers, feet and all. Auk birds are those tink, penguin-crossed-with-a-house-sparrow looking birds. They’re related to puffins and weigh in at 5 to 6 ounces, so you can fit a lot of them inside 500 pounds of dead seal. Once stuffed the seal-ducken is left to ferment under a rock for around three months.


Once fermented in the melting seal fat the birds can be eaten raw… according to the worst sentence I’ve ever read on a foodie travel blog, which continues, with a yet worse sentence “the most popular way to consume Kiviak is to bite off the head of the auk and suck out the juices” which are not raspberry flavored. No, those are the liquified entrails of a bird.


Local fans of the “delicacy” say the bird meat flavor is heightened by fermentation and takes on flavors of stinky cheeses and liquorice.



Traditionally this dish is now served on Christmas, at weddings, and sometimes, at funerals. According to legend an old man made and ate some Kiviak and, I guess because he put it under the wrong rock, it killed him. Then, unbenounced to his family, but nounced to us, the Kiviak had gone bad but was assumed to be ok and served at his funeral… where many, many people ate it and became gravely ill themselves. So… merry Christmas I guess. Unless you’re a seal.


Of course, three months, a hollowed out seal, and four hundred tiny birds might be more doing than you want to put into a quarantine-Christmas dinner. If you’d rather spend all your time with your cat than kitchen, might I suggest ordering a lovely Christmas Dinner Pizza from Mayfair Pizza, or in less London-y locations… Papa Johns.


That’s right, your favorite Trump supporting, working exploiting, cardboard cheese serving, pizza dump pulled another wondrous item out of their oven of horrors and declared it Christmas dinner. Because the best way to make sure Tiny Tim keeps all his frivolous requests to himself is to give him a second slice of this atrocity.


This circular hellscape of toppings includes turkey balls with all the bite-sized trimmings—including non-Newtonian cranberry cubes—carrots, broccoli, brussel sprouts, “honey” glazed parsnips, and all the roasted, undefined “meat” you can cover in the pies red wine gravy sauce. Because fuck you, that’s why.



Dumbed the “Festive Feast” pizza, this monstrosity goes on sale in December so that you can spend the holidays hating yourself as fully as someone who orders it deserves. Papa John’s, for their part, wants to assure everyone that they’re an equal opportunity holliday food-Grench. So if undisclosed animal products aren’t your thing you can order a vegan version of this pizza complete with plant-based fake-cheese substitute “Sheese” which now boasts the ability to melt.


If you are in the greater London area and this abortion of a food substance sounds good you can visit the aforementioned Mayfaire Pizza location and their much less discusting sounding Holiday Pizza. Pro-tip though, make sure you put the pizza out before eating as, for some reason, this pie is served flambe.



But enough of that vegan crap, let’s talk about our meat!


Big ol’ servings of meat for your mouth. Massive, erect, towers of meat. Next to those big, brown, meatballs. You know, the kind that barely fit into your mouth. And those long, juicy sausages. So tender. I mean, you gotta tenderize. Get in there and really beat your meat into submission before you feed it to others. You know, real Norman Rockwell, Americana, heteronormative stuff.


What?


I mean, meat towers!


It seems that America was enthralled with how big and imposing its meat was. If you wanted to put the commies in their place, you had to have some heavy, swinging, meat. Like, three or four pounds at least. Which is asking a lot if your meat tower has crabs. Crabs, shrimp, and the like were popular in the 1950’s. Bon Appetit’s recipe used pine sprigs, ham, mayo, and green olives to reach nearly two feet of towering seabug saltiness.


Well, I say seabug, because shrimp, but if you live inland they might just be Mudbugs. Or as 1962’s Art of French Cooking says is the definitive Christmas tower of Holiday power—you gotta get yourself some “Crayfish Bush.”


And no, that’s not a channel on PronHub…


This meat tower is basically the same as the shrimp tower but with Crayfish instead. Which, in the picture, makes you look like a fancy-pants lobster engineer but in reality makes you a gross dirt person. Ok, maybe that’s a little far, but I’ve eaten crayfish in nearly every style you can think of and let’s just say there’s a reason that’s all past-tense. They’re gross. Imagine the bland, whitefish, mush of a lobster mixed with gritty overtones of literal mud and rot, all wrapped up in a mini-me lobster that makes everything more work for less reward and you’ll have it.



If you’ve got more than a shrimp to work with [cough] you might want to go with a Holiday Meat Tree, yee-oldie recipe included in the show notes. These fine American cold cuts are layered, like the stories from that drunk Uncle you don’t have to deal with this year #ThanksCovid, over a tree made out of a loaf of unsliced Wonderbread. The bread is used as a base for rolls of “assorted cold sliced meats” and lettuce leaves can be toothpicked to. It’s… soggy!



And who wants a moist, floppy, meat tower anyway?


Best we move on to other, fishier, meat sculptures. Because why should the guys… at the deli… have all the fun eh? If you’re looking to get your tuna tossed this holiday season there’s no better way than a Tuna Tinsel Tree. This disgusting delight comes to us from the talented team at Chicken of the Sea who really should spend less time asking if they can make a recipe, and more time wondering if they should. From Better Homes and Gardens, 1968 “Oh God Why” feature (and no longer on their website, I looked) comes this… mound of pink, fishy, mayo-dripping, canned meat. Better Homes really had their finger on the button of American sensibilities when they published the … blueprints, for this one. First, you open a dozen or so cans of tuna. Then you mix it with mayo, relish, and the existential dread of knowing you’ll die alone because this is what you think humans eat, until your bowl of fish holds stiff peaks. Then, you dump it out on a plate, use your hands to crudely form it into a cone, stick a bunch of loose leaf parsley to it and call it a tree. Yum.



Unfortunately, if you’re a good Bible-reading Christian, you know you shouldn’t have trees in your home (Jeremiah 10: 1-5), but fear not, Hellmann’s is here to save the day with their terrifying recipe for a Frosty Slaw Man. This hellspawn is a semi-round ball of the aforementioned ingredients with the delightful addition of grated cabbage and a bell pepper cap hat.




And if that doesn’t leave your orafi dripping may we just need to dig a little deeper into that holiday clam. So let’s make some Oyster casserole. Because nothing says “Happy Holidays” like a gritty, brined, beige, plate of damp mush. This self-proclaimed and proud “stinky” treat is made with “fresh jarred” oysters, four cups of saltine cracker crumbs, butter, half & half, the remaining oyster liqueur—or, what it actually is, salty oyster preservation liquid—the tiniest conceivable amount of worcestershire sauce, more salt or some reason, and pepper. As for directions… dump the listed ingredients into a pan, mix well, bake, then kill yourself.



Of course, not everyone wants a plate of fish-mush. Some people prefer giggle-fish. Luckily, I’ve come prepared with the Vegetable and Tuna Gelatin cake. Yep.


This “modern” delight comes to us from the 1960’s and all the enthusiasm the invention of jello could muster. This pink, glistening, bunt-mare is made with unflavored gelatin, condensed tomato soup, cream cheese, mayo, relish, and canned tuna. Directions include making gelatine, then mixing it with everything else I listed until smooth and letting it set in a pre-formed pan until the elder gods smite you. Served with embedded olives, because of course, and a center of oily, tomato and basil, this horror will wiggle and giggle it’s way right into your trash can’s heart.



Now, I know what you’re all thinking, “those sound like great foods to alienate my family on the holidays, but what can I serve them to wash it up with?”


The answer may surprise you… in fact, I really hope it does. Marks & Spencer, who I thought was just a retail store for people with more money than taste, proved that the only thing they really care about is the “without taste” part when they released their new holiday beverage, brussel sprout soda. Mixed with the flavor enhancing power of apple, pear, and depression, this fine opaque, puss-green, drink will set you back five bucks a bottle and is the perfect holiday treat to serve guests you don’t want to deal with next year.


And finally, how about some desert?


I know a few of these are technically, or traditionally, considered desert but mashed meat products and gravity warping bread don’t count in my book. No, ‘round here we let people eat cake. Like dry Bean and Pea cake.


This delicacy was served in the 18th and 19th centuries on January 5th usually, which is apparently an important festive day… you know… back in the day. Also known as a Twelfth Cake the cake itself isn’t really described. It’s just, you know, a cake. What’s unique is that the baker will add a dry bean and pea to the batter. When eaten the lucky people who don’t choke to death on raw rock-food are declared the King and Queen of the night and everyone has to play their games and follow their rules, one of which is, I hope, no more adding choking hazards to the desert.


Before I go, if you, like me, find yourself wanting a holiday midnight snack, you should hit up Tesco for a Turkey & Stuffing Weirdough. According to the package these are “flavored mini doughnuts” flavored with the finest artificial thanksgiving tastes. These onion-ring looking snacks are shelf stable, crunchy, and come in neon packaging which I’m sure doesn’t at all taste better than the product. But if you need a festive midnight snack and your shoe hasn’t come out of the microwave yet, these just might be your go to!


In closing I should tell the tale of at least one modern traditional holiday food, Wisconsin’s own “cannibal sandwich” which, would be wayyyy better if it were what it sounds like it is.


Wisconsin residents are being urged to stop being so damn gross by health officials warning of Salmonella, E. coli, Campylobacter and Listeria, and a lot more in their Christmas treat of choice. The sandwich, also known as the Tiger Meat sandwich, is made with two slices of generic white bread and a filling of raw hamburger meat. The end.


It seems that the people of Wisconsin are willing to do anything to avoid continuing to live in Wisconsin, including participating in one of some eight raw meat-related outbreaks the state has hosted since 1986. “Time for our annual reminder that there’s one #holiday tradition you need to pass on: raw meat sandwiches, sometimes called Tiger Meat or Cannibal Sandwiches,” the state health department wrote on Facebook.


Raw burger is, of course, full of harmful bacteria because that’s what happens when you put stuff in a grinder and mix its germy outside with its otherwise clean inside. Which is why beef tartar, for example, is made from high quality slabs of beef, washed, seasoned, and chopped right before serving.


So there ya go everyone. Regardless of your holiday preferences I hope you’re having the thing you like the most, with the people you like the most—if only on Zoom. Thanks for joining us on this tasty holiday special and if you’ve had or are intentionally making any of these fine treats I’d love to hear what they’re like… and why…



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WWSQ-World Wide Santa Quiz


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Santa Claus has become the dominant international figure of the holiday season. He might well be deemed the headline act, but the character arose from a synthesis of historic, folk and religious traditions stretching back hundreds of years. There’s a mind-boggling number of variations on the character throughout history and barely any country opted for the same iteration or set of customs.


In the UK, US and Canada, “Santa Claus” or “Father Christmas” travels around the world sporting a red suit on his sleigh, pulled by 8 reindeer.


He comes down the chimney the night before Christmas (between 24 and 25 December), leaving presents for children under the Christmas tree! Children often leave Christmas stockings by the fireplace that Santa can fill with small gifts and sweets.


Some families will leave a snack for him for his travels. In the UK, it’s common to leave a mince pie (a traditional festive pastry) and a glass of whisky / sherry for Santa, and a carrot for the reindeer!


Today we take a look at different Santa traditions from around the world and test Aaron and Steve’s knowledge of the Jolly Red Elf. So sit back and relax with that mug of nog and see what you know.




  1. This country has a relatively similar Santa with a few different customs but what really sets him apart is his sidekick, translated to, “Father Whipper” a kind of anti-santa. Like a mobster doing their boss’s dirty work, Father Whipper sets out into the cold, cold December night to deal with the kids who have been naughty. They’re more likely to deck the halls with Holly’s bowels than boughs of holly. Children are given a choice: presents or a sound beating with a bag of ashes (as one tale goes). If you’ve given too much lip to your folks over the year or don’t say your prayers, it’s possible an evisceration is all you’ve got to look forward to. As coercion tactics go, it’s better than the carrot and stick method, this one basically terrifies you into being good. What country does this creeper originate?

    1. Hint: This Santa leaves gifts in your shoes while you are at Christmas eve mass.

      1. Answer: France, Père Fouettard is the characters name

      2. So how does a creepy figure with a creepier name – Father Whipper? – fit into the St. Nicholas tradition? There are several origin stories that have become popularised. Most are medieval in origin. The first, which started to be told around 1150, involves an evil butcher who kidnapped three lost children, murdered them by slitting their throats, carved the meat up and put it in a salting tub. Alas, St. Nicholas turned up at the door and the butcher attempted to ingratiate himself to his saintly visitor by offering him his best meat. Instead, Saint Nicholas resurrected the boys from the dead and sends them back to their parents. Seeing an opportunity for the butcher to repent his sins, the butcher became Father Whipper, a sort of eternal servant, who basically acts as the bad cop to Saint Nicholas’s good cop.

      3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P%C3%A8re_Fouettard








  1. In Spain, good children are not only visited by one, but three jolly figures who give presents on El Dia De Reyes on January 6. In the days leading up to El Dia de Reyes, children in Spain, Mexico, and other Hispanic countries will write letters to their favorite mago — Melchor, Gaspar, or Balthazar — asking for gifts. That night, children leave out sweets for them and hay for the camels they ride on, and place their shoes where they will be spotted. The next day, the offerings will be replaced by presents. Who are the three men?

    1. Hint: They gave out the first Christmas presents ever.

      1. Answer: The three wise men, or the Magi.

      2. Just like Santa Claus, los reyes magos bring coal for those on the naughty list!








  1. Joulupukki has been nicknamed the Finnish Santa. Before globalism naturally combined traditional Scandinavian customs with modern-day Santa Claus, Joulupukki was a malevolent spirit associated with the Norse god Odin who knocked on doors and demanded gifts and leftovers from the Yuletide feasts. Nowadays, he still goes around to each house, but will instead inquire, “Onko täällä kilttejä lapsia?” (“Are there any well-behaved children here?”) and hand out presents. He drives a sleigh pulled by reindeer that does not actually fly. What kind of animal is Joulupukki?

    1. Hint: Though not a human, like Santa, Joulupukki also has a beard.

      1. Answer: A Goat, The Yule Goat

      2. Modern decorative representations of the Yule goat are usually made out of straw, like the famous Gävlebocken in Gavle, Sweden, which has been set on fire 26 times out of 47 years, and has become a somewhat macabre pyrotechnic tradition.








  1. The Yule Lads are mischievous Icelandic elves — who instead of making toys in Santa’s workshop — play tricks on children. Some of the lads include: Stekkjarstaur, in english, Sheep-Cote Clod, who likes to harass sheep, but is impaired by his stiff peg-legs. Askasleikir, Bowl-Licker who Hides under beds waiting for someone to put down their bowl which he then steals. Why a bowl under the bed? I don’t know. My personal favorite Bjúgnakrækir, Sausage-Swiper, this guy hides in the rafters and snatches sausages. During the nights leading up to Christmas, Icelandic children place their shoes by the windowsill in the hopes that one of the Yule Lads will leave them small gifts or candies. Misbehaved children will instead receive rotten potatoes in their shoes. How many Yule lads are there?

    1. Hint: It’s a prime number… I guess

      1. Answer: There are 13 Yule Lads

      2. The Yule Lads mom is named Grýla and she is an ogress that comes out with her sons in search of naughty children to boil in her cauldron.








  1. Long before the man in the red suit was bringing toys to children on Christmas, La Befana — a good-natured witch who flies around on a broomstick — was doing the same for good children in. She has been a part of folklore since the 8th century. According to the story, the three wise men came upon La Befana’s house on Christmas Eve when they were journeying to see baby Jesus. She gave the wise men shelter and they asked her to join them to visit the Christ child. She declined, but then later changed her mind and tried to catch up with the magi. However, she never found her way to Bethlehem, and now every night on the Eve of the Epiphany on January 5, she flies over the land and gives toys and candy to good children, while leaving coal for the naughty ones. Where does La Befana deliver gifts to?

    1. Hint: You’ll often find witches on brooms in these traditional Christmas markets.

      1. Answer: Italy

      2. As Befana enters houses through the chimney she wears a distinctive dark shawl caked with layers of chimney soot. It’s also said that she sweeps the floor of a home before she departs, a symbolic gesture for clearing out the old just as the new year is dawning. Inquisitive children beware: if you’re intent on getting a glimpse of her, Befana is rumored to give you a sharp thump with her broom!








  1. The Kallikantzaros are evil goblins that come up from the Earth’s core, and their job is sawing at the World Tree to terrorize homes during the 12 days of Christmas. No two regions of this country describe these goblins the same way. Sometimes they’re small, sometimes they’re large; but they’re typically black and hairy and have features of animals. On Christmas, they come up to the Earth’s surface and cause mischief during the night throughout the Yuletide. They disappear on January 6, heading back to their home. What country do they torment?

    1. Hint: They are slippery little buggers.

      1. Answer: Greece

      2. They come out of hiding at night, to enter houses; anyway they can, through windows, down chimneys, through keyholes, and any cracks that they may find, in walls and around doors. Once inside they cause havoc. It is said that if you leave a colander on your doorstep, at night, the Kallikantzaroi, who can only count to two, and consider the number three holy, and will kill themselves, before pronouncing it, will spend all night, counting the holes. They only ever reach the number two, and start again, so as not to utter the word; three! At sunrise, they disappear.








  1. We all know Santa’s sleigh is pulled by eight flying reindeer (and that’s a pretty insane aspect of Santa, if you stop and think about it). But these reindeer come from the Germanic conflation of Odin of the Norse gods with the historical St. Nicholas, encouraged by early Christians trying to convert the heathens. The winter solstice was a magic time for the Germanic peoples called Yule, in which Odin led “The Wild Hunt”: Kids would leave out food for Odin’s flying, eight-legged horse Sleipnir, and Odin would put candy and treats in place of the food. After that, Saint Nicholas was supposed to have had a flying horse when he delivered gifts, and at some point the eight legs of Sleipnir inspired Santa’s eight flying reindeer, which were first mentioned in what poem?

    1. Hint: An 1822 that I know you have read out loud at least once.

      1. Answer: Clement Moore’s 1822 poem A Visit From Saint Nicholas — better known as “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

      2. And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:






“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!


On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!


To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!


Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”




  1. Santa gets billions of letters every year from children all over the world, but if you thought most of them were coming from the United States, you would be wrong. The country sending the most paper mail to Santa every holiday season, according to statistical data, is what country?

    1. Hint: I have never been there.

      1. Answer: France

      2. That’s right, French boys and girls are sending a staggering 1.7 million letters to Jolly Old Saint Nick, compared to 1.35 million from Canada and just over a million letters from the United States. Mexico and Latin America didn’t even make the list, which may be because of the Mexican custom of kids putting their letters to Santa in helium balloons and releasing them into the air.








  1. The figure of Santa Claus is based on St. Nicholas, a real person. Born around the year 270, St. Nicholas was the Bishop of Myra which is now in what country?

    1. Hint:I haven’t been here either.

      1. Answer: Turkey.

      2. In the mid 1800s, poet Thomas Nash wrote a poem that famously placed Santa’s home in the North Pole, even though the original saint lived in Turkey. Nash most likely chose the North Pole because, at the time, there were several scientific explorations to the North Pole, a region that was seen as a type of fantasy land, mysterious and just out of reach.








  1. Santa may be one of the most recognized characters in the world, but he didn’t start out that way. Santa, then Nicholas’ parents died when he was a teenager. They left him a lot of money which made him a rich young man. Nicholas went to live with his uncle who was a priest. While living with his Uncle he met townsfolk whose needs were great and realized his wealth could be better spent on others. Originally Santa didn’t deliver toys and candies to children, instead his first delivery was what?

    1. Hint: His first delivery was to a young poor girl looking to marry.

      1. Answer: Gold.

      2. Nicholas heard about a man who had lost all his money. He had three daughters who were old enough to get married. But in those days young women had to have money in order to get married. This money was a “dowry” and it was used to help the new family get started. If you didn’t have dowry money, you didn’t get married. This family was so poor they had nothing left to eat. The daughters were going to be sold as slaves because they couldn’t live at home any longer. They were very sad. They wouldn’t be able to have families of their own. And they would have to be slaves—no longer able to decide where they would live or what they would do.The night before the oldest daughter was to be sold, she washed her stockings and put them in front of the fire to dry. Then all of them went to sleep—the father and the three daughters. In the morning the daughter saw a lump in her stocking. Reaching in, she found a small, heavy bag. It had gold inside! Enough to provide food for the family and money for her dowry. Oh, how happy they were!






Outro


I’m Aaron, and I’d like to thank all our listeners, supporters, and my co-hosts.


Whatever you do or don’t celebrate we hope it’s going as well as 2020 will let it.

Stay safe out there and have a Happy Holidays!


Find out more about the show, social links, and contact information at InterestingIfTrue.com.


Music for this episode was created by Wayne Jones and was used with permission.


The opinions, views, and nonsense expressed in this show are those of the hosts only and do not represent any other people, organizations, or lifeforms.

All rights reserved, Interesting If True 2020.


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Interesting If True - Episode 34: Happy Holiday Hoedown

Interesting If True - Episode 34: Happy Holiday Hoedown

Aaron, Jenn, Jim, Shea & Steve