For us Americans, Thanksgiving is the big traditional meal of the year. To qualify as Thanksgiving, there must be turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, candied yams, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. Yum!

But did you know that the lowly (and much maligned) brussels sprout is an indispensable part of a traditional British Christmas Dinner? I kid you not. Apparently, no proper Brit would consider it Christmas without some sprouts on the plate.

Here is a photo of the mandatory items on an English dinner plate:

Along with brussels sprouts, (which most Americans hate but me), you will see the traditional Christmas turkey, roast potatoes, and parsnips. Parsnips? Excuse me, parsnips?!? I hate parsnips, and have an excuse not to eat them since I am mildly allergic to them --  which probably stems from the fact that they're poisonous!

Parsnips contain toxic psoralens, which are potent light-activated carcinogens and mutagens not destroyed by cooking [Ivie 1981]. Parsnips contain psoralens at a concentration of 40 ppm... Consumption of moderate quantities of this vegetable by man can result in the intake of appreciable amounts of psoralens..." (source)

And that lumpy, galumphing white blob of "bread sauce" looks like it's a sad attempt to make up for a lack of mashed potatoes. However, I am eyeing those mandatory British Christmas bacon-wrapped sausages and that big slice of plain bacon and nodding vigorously. Who could say no to bacon on Christmas? (Though in our house it would be turkey bacon.)

In any event, I found this fascinating. Brussels sprouts being inextricably linked with Christmas? Whoulda thunk it!

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5 Comments
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  • Anne
    3 years, 9 months ago - Reply - Link

    Hi Katherine,
    I hate parsnips too, and wouldn't dream of making them part of a Christmas dinner. I wouldn't say parsnips are particularly traditional here in the UK. They seem to have become a "snobby" or "trendy" replacement for the good old carrot. Having eaten upwards of 60 Christmas day dinners, (that's giving away my age) I can assure you that Brussels sprouts are mandatory and always have been, but they need to have been outside in the frost to reach their full potential & release their full rich flavour, home grown are best, picked on Christmas day morning with (hopefully) frost on them.. I ADORE what some cooks would consider "overcooked" squashy sprouts.Yummy !!
    The dinner plate ingredients you have there are about right for the typical Brit although Sage & onion stuffing (again home made is always best) is more usual than chestnut stuffing.

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  • Anne
    3 years, 9 months ago - Reply - Link

    PS. I didn't notice the absent mashed potato, that too is also mandatory and potatoes are best mashed & whipped with a huge wedge of butter and double cream, or milk if preferred, some people like to add a raw egg, not me though.

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  • Ronald
    3 years, 9 months ago - Reply - Link

    I must say that of all the wondrous Christmastime foods that I may have salivated over in my mind, I am absolutely certain that brussels sprouts was never one of them!!! Good luck with your treatments. I tune in on Saturday when I can.

    - Ron

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  • Laura
    3 years, 9 months ago - Reply - Link

    Katherine,
    Brussels Sprouts get our vote since they are delicious and even if they weren't a cruciferous veggie, we love them. I'm partial to Broccoli, but BS are a nice holiday change. Thanks for the suggestion.

    We are having a very low key holiday, but I'll tell you, Christmas is about a time of reflection, to count our blessings, and enjoy those we treasure. The music, the lights, the people you care about. That sums up Christmas to me. The rest is unimportant. And Katherine, you are in our prayers and thoughts. You are truly a beauty inside and out, and many of us are on this journey with you.
    Merry Christmas to your husband and you.

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  • Melanie Bishop
    3 years, 4 months ago - Reply - Link

    Turkey, ham, mashed potatoes with gravy, cranberry sauce, winter veggies, and the best part

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