Saturday, December 09, 2023

Weekend Cooking: The Message

At this time of year there are lot of messages for us all. Things like you need to spend a lot of money on gifts to have the perfect Christmas, or that the perfect Christmas needs to look and feel a certain way, that there are certain traditions that must be upheld. If we go back to the original Christmas story, there were the messages from the angels to Mary, to the shepherds. There's a lot of messages. This week, I have been getting my own message. And that message is ..... Lebkuchen.

Before I get to what exactly what lebkuchen is/are, I thought I would explain the how I am getting the message. 

Last week I was listening to Bill Bryson's Audible original The Secret History of Christmas, in which Bryson answers all the questions that you didn't even know you needed to ask about the history of Christmas. Examples might include how did a 4th century bishop from what is now modern day Turkey transform over time to become integral to so many Christmas stories around the world? Has Christmas always been the big deal it is now? Not really. Who are the biggest spenders when it comes to Christmas, and when did many of the things that we consider traditional now actually become traditional. The answer to that one may surprise you. There are things that are generally known that are debunked like the fact that Prince Albert bought the Christmas tree to England when he married Queen Victoria. 

As you would expect, there are lots of facts and stories about food, because let's face it, food is important in every holiday. He talks about what traditional foods are around the world. Actually I should say this is very European centric but I guess that is not wholly unexpected. There were a few things I learned. One I already knew was that it is now traditional in Japan for families to eat KFC at Christmas time. Another example was that it was traditional in some parts of Poland for the main meal to be carp which was kept in the bathtub until it was time to cook it so that it would be really fresh when cooked up. Without wanting to steal a joke from the book, it does make you wonder how fresh the family was!

This is a really short audiobook, around 3 hours, and it was really fun to listen to. I already listen to Hogfather by Terry Pratchett every year, but I could see myself listening to this again at some point. In fact, I just suggested to my husband that maybe we could listen to it in the car together while we are out and about, so I could be listening to it again as soon as this week.

I have also started reading to the Secret History of Christmas Baking by Linda Raedisch. Actually the full title is The Secret History of Christmas Baking: Recipes & Stories from Tomb Offerings to Gingerbread Boys, and from this you can possibly tell that this book is not all tinsel and mistletoe. In this book there has been quite a lot of material around the prevalence of honey cakes, all the way back to Egypt which have then morphed into some of the familiar flavours we are used to. The author is of German descent, and so the various different versions of lebkuchen throughout Europe is discussed. 

Some of the history is very interesting. For example, when I think of Christmas-y flavours things like cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger come to mind, but these are flavours that had to be imported to Europe at some point. The author talks a bit about this, particular in the context of the actions of institutions such as The Dutch East Indies Company where there is evidence of the atrocities that were committed in the name of obtaining these spices.

The content is primarily food related but there are also some craft related activities interspersed in the pages.

I am looking forward to learning more!

The final prompt I have is because of a cookbook I bought a while ago called Advent by Anja Dunk. Again, this one has a full title which is Advent: Festive German Bakes to Celebrate the Coming of Christmas. So far, I am really loving this book which is separated into 24 different chapters (one for each day of Advent) with all different types of bakes for each chapter. The author talks about a Bunter Teller which translates as "colourful plate" and in this context means a colourful plate of Advent biscuits. Part of the reason why the book is broken into these different chapters is that there would be a specific order in which you bake the colourful array of biscuits. 

The order in which they are baked acts as a calendar; a countdown measured in biscuits. The butter-less biscuits, many of them old-fashioned varieties such as Lebkuchen, which keep the longest, are baked first, followed by nut biscuits, then macaroons and meringues. We bake butter-rich ones such as Vanillekipferl after all of the aforementioned, and finally the last things we make are all the sweets and truffles. The biscuit are usually stored in a towering stack of tins kept at the ready to plate a selection up whenever neighbours and friends pop round.

It's my kind of advent calendar, although not if I have to do ALL the cooking!!

The second chapter is for several different versions of lebkuchen including how to make your own spice mix, lebkuchen hearts (filled and unfilled),  old-fashioned honey lebkuchen and more.

I have made a soft gingerbread biscuit several times previously which is inspired by lebkuchen. I tend to take them to work to share with my colleagues and they are always a hit! I shared this recipe a few years ago! They are honey and orange-y morsels of goodness!

Throughout the book the chapter divides are Christmassy lithographs which the author created herself, and all the photos are her own as this book was created during lockdowns. As I flick through the book there are so many things which look utterly delicious. There are cakes, biscuits, desserts and more. It's a lovely book!

I can see myself spending a lot more time looking at this book. But only after I have decided which lebkuchen recipe (or inspired recipe as the case may be) I am going to bake this week.

I am sharing this post as part of the Virtual Advent Tour hosted by Sprite Writes

Weekly meals

Saturday -  Italian Meatballs
Sunday -  Out for dinner
Monday - Smash burgers
Tuesday - Pork chops, mash and veggies
Wednesday - Chicken parma and chips
Thursday - Zucchini risotto
Friday - Steak, baked potato and salad

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page


  1. I thank you for sharing the Bill Bryson audiobook and Hogfather with us. I've been thinking about reading something Christmas-y.

    1. I will be happy to listen to either of them again next year

  2. Replies
    1. It was, to the point we listened to it again!

  3. I love the idea of an Advent calendar of cookies -- but I'd want someone else to do the baking!

    The Bill Bryson book sounds fun!

  4. I think that Bryson book may be accompanying me on my walks this week. Thanks.

  5. Both of these look great! I hope you have a great week! Cindy from

  6. I just downloaded the Bryson book. I love his books!