Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Santa Claus Snacks around the World: A World of Cookies for Santa by M.E Furman

All around the world Christmas is a time for giving.

"Faithfully, truly, yearly, newly, somehow Santa always comes,"* to bring gifts to children everywhere. And kids have long loved being able to give something good back to Santa.

In North American, youngsters are likely to leave a couple of chocolate chip cookies and a small glass of milk. Santa's never complained, but elsewhere in the world, youngsters have their own favorites to offer the Yuletide saint.

Who gets the first visit from Santa? Christmas day first dawns on Christmas Island, Kiritimati, near the International Date Line, in the South Pacific, where kids have plenty of coconuts for their chewy macaroons. In New Zealand his reindeer get carrots and St. Nick gets Anzac "biscuits." In Australia, where chimneys are few, he has a master key for each front door and gets fruity cookies and cold milk or perhaps beer.

Across Asia there is a slice of cherry cake in Japan, and in the Dutch-influenced Sinterklaas tradition in Indonesia, the Saint finds a pineapple-topped nastar cookie. In India children leave spicy chai with crispy kulkuls to munch. In South Africa Santa finds Dutch chocolates and hertzog cookies, and in Malawi kids show their appreciation with ombatata, sweet potato cookies. And in Bethlehem, the treat is ma'moul, stuffed with dates, honey, and nuts.

Crisscrossing Europe, Santa is coming down the home stretch. In Russia he even has a minion, Snegurochka the Snow Maiden, to deliver the goods, and she gets the hot tea and honey spiced pryaniki cookies. Scandinavian youngsters leave risalmande pudding, and in Germany he gets a choice--Pepparkkakor or Springerle. Naturellement, French chefs go all out with dessert buffet and fine wine. In Spain it's Turron, a nougat-and-nuts dulce, while the British Isles offer mincemeat cookies and, of course, a spot, of Earl Grey tea.

It's a long haul over the Atlantic, giving Santa time to grow hungry enough for the fruity pan de pasequa, a fruit-filled sweet bread in Chile, and of course, familiar Mexican wedding cakes, with, for a nice change, a cup of cinnamon-flavored hot chocolate. With stops across the two westward continents, Santa's sleigh makes the long flight to one of his last destinations, Hawaii, where he puts his sleigh in park while he surfs to the beach and chows down on tropical pineapple-macadamia cookies.

Santa lovers all over get a chance to sample holiday treats wherever the Saint is welcomed, in M. E. Furman's festive new A World of Cookies for Santa: Follow Santa's Tasty Trip Around the World (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017).

It's a wonderful world-wide custom to share with Santa and others at Christmastide, one which gives kids a chance to give back to the Christmas saint of children. Furman's book offers a smorgasbord of Santa's snacks, offering a buffet of the various customs and Christmas cuisine of 32 places--from Sri Lanka to Ukraine, along the way. The author provides a sampler of some recipes from all around the world, from familiar Mexican wedding cakes to the exotic Basque almond tile cookies, all easy enough for kids, in the best tradition of Christmas, to share in the making. Artist Susan Gal's illustrations fill the pages with Christmas cheer, jolly children giving their homemade goodies up for Santa's refreshment. This book is a first purchase for libraries and for the home-baking bookshelf.

* The Year Without a Santa Claus, by Phyllis McGinley.

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