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January 22, 2023 1:56 PM   Subscribe

It's the coolest mutual admiration society event ever. On The Amber Ruffin Show - John Oliver Explains How The Brits Do Christmas, and We Have Questions [YT 13:25]. Crackers and minced pie are covered. And, how do they really feel about giant red bows in car commercials and It's a Wonderful Life?

The question, "The French National Football Team and the British Royal Family are both hanging off a cliff. You can only save one of them, who do you save," requires a follow-up question.

Amber Ruffin prev1, prev 2. John Oliver prev1, prev2, prev3
posted by Glinn (30 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
seems to be a dead link
posted by ivanthenotsoterrible at 2:04 PM on January 22

Dangit. Here.
posted by Glinn at 2:06 PM on January 22 [2 favorites]

So funny, watched this last week! Adding the phrase ‘x is cause for class war’ to my vocabulary too.
posted by ellieBOA at 2:47 PM on January 22 [6 favorites]

this is hilarious. she reminds me of one of my best friends who i haven't seen in a long time and it makes me miss her.
posted by capnsue at 3:56 PM on January 22 [2 favorites]

Mince pies! Not minced pie!!
posted by quacks like a duck at 4:29 PM on January 22 [15 favorites]

Mod note: Fixed link!
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 4:38 PM on January 22

This was also a recent discussion on the Britainology sub-episodes of the Trashfuture podcast.
posted by stannate at 5:24 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]

I feel like the humble mince pie gets a bad rap here.

(I have two bakeries in my neighbourhood that do really nice ones, which is both a good and terrible thing)
posted by Pallas Athena at 5:38 PM on January 22 [4 favorites]

I just want these two to co-host every event together for the rest of my life. Is that so much to ask?
posted by armeowda at 6:03 PM on January 22 [8 favorites]

Mince pies >>>> Christmas pudding.
posted by jvbthegolfer at 6:22 PM on January 22 [3 favorites]

Wish they'd kept the Britain/USA thing going and pitted It's a Wonderful Life against A Christmas Carol (the one with Alister Sim).
posted by brachiopod at 6:41 PM on January 22 [4 favorites]

Mince pies >>>> Christmas pudding.

I will grudgingly admit this is true, though they fulfill a very different function, the pudding being almost ceremonial in nature. I’ve been tweaking my pudding recipe for years now, and my main discovery is really that a) much nicer if you candy your own peel, and b) the traditional pudding is way, way, way too dried fruit heavy. I’ve really upped the amount of breadcrumbs and apple in mine and it’s much less dense. Also you don’t need to soak it in so much booze it’s basically like chewing on brandied raisins. The other revelation was that mince pies and pudding share about 80% of the same ingredients, so you might as well candy a whole bunch of peels then make them at the same time. Homemade mincemeat is absurdly more delicious, too.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 6:54 PM on January 22 [6 favorites]

I love a good Christmas pudding and I have come to the conclusion that many Americans have never had a good one, probably because all the traditional recipes are non-alcoholic. Christmas puddings are wet. They're kind of dense, but dense in the way that a good mudcake is dense. The descriptions I see of dry blocks of fruitcake that last for eons at the back of the cupboard because they're awful but traditional simply don't make sense in my experience.

The scales fell from my eyes when I started to Google American fruitcake recipes to try and understand this insistence, and ran across a Martha Stewart recipe where she said, effectively, "fruitcakes don't have to be dry! here's a recipe I got from an Australian friend; the secret is alcohol". That recipe appears to be gone from the internet and I wish I'd gotten a screenshot. The recipe on her website, last time I checked, is apparently a childhood recipe she got from someone from overseas who helped inspire the love of cooking, and it's how they make fruitcake in the old country, and I'm reading it going "Martha Stewart you liar, I remember the old recipe where you made out like you didn't know any of this"
posted by Merus at 8:10 PM on January 22 [6 favorites]

Mince pies are definitely the best Christmas thing ever, if only because Christmas pudding is worthless without brandy custard and the custard always runs out long before there is still half a Christmas pudding sitting in the fridge.
posted by dg at 9:02 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]

Mince pies are great. Christmas pudding is ok. Bread sauce, on the other hand, is completely inexplicable.

If someone has a good recipe for bread sauce that doesn't taste of sadness, please enlighten me so I can force it onto my British in-laws (who, to be fair, don't much like it either but make it out of a sense of obligation to some Christmas god or other. Not JC, to be sure).
posted by tavegyl at 9:47 PM on January 22 [4 favorites]

Careless deployment of "Cracker" (like "suspenders" or "engaged") is another one of those pit-trap words for British/American conversations; especially when you are talking with Amber Ruffin. "It's OK when we say it..." is a great line.
posted by rongorongo at 11:01 PM on January 22 [3 favorites]

Mince pies, Xmas pudding and Xmas cake are all wonderful. Xmas pudding freezes well so no need to leave it in the fridge for ages. Xmas cake should be anointed with brandy regularly before it is iced. And it should be eaten with cheese.
posted by bifurcated at 11:38 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]

As a kid, Xmas cake seemed a sort of fraud but it was the time of year for Scottish tablet (just called “fudge” in Belfast, I think). Sugar, condensed milk and butter - stirred constantly at barely a boil until you could swipe a clear path across the bottom of the pot. My gums hurt thinking about it.
posted by brachiopod at 4:08 AM on January 23 [1 favorite]

According to my (British) wife, the proper time to start making the Christmas pudding is around now. You make it in a bowl and put it in the back of the fridge. The first time you put it in, and about every month afterward, you poke a bunch of holes in the pudding and pour a generous amount of brandy in it.

By December, it's got so much booze in that even after you pop it out of the bowl and onto a plate, then turn out the lights and set it on fire, it's still really moist even after the brandy (mostly) burns off.

We did that for one year, then gave it up as too much work (and fridge space).
posted by Brachinus at 6:43 AM on January 23

We've been doing semi-British Christmas for a few years now, which is mostly ordering real crackers from the UK and then we make Yorkshire Puddings with the roast beef drippings (having a shallow pan is key)

I love the paper hats and I love the yorkie puds. I can do without the fruited things.
posted by JoeZydeco at 6:47 AM on January 23 [1 favorite]

If someone has a good recipe for bread sauce that doesn't taste of sadness,

I've had bread sauce which A) used sourdough bread B) fried the onions before infusing them in the milk C) added garlic to the onions. That was reasonably edible; a mild melancholy, perhaps.
posted by Shark Hat at 8:26 AM on January 23 [3 favorites]

This Scot has mixed feelings on It's a Wonderful Life. It's probably more responsible than anything else for the global popularity of Burns' Auld Lang Syne, but did they really have to pronounce it Auld Lang Zyne?
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 8:29 AM on January 23

Mince pies have long been a Christmas thing in my American family. They're in all my vintage American cookbooks too, along with "plum pudding" (which is ultimately Christmas pudding recipes). Not sure why those traditional Christmas foods stopped showing up regularly on American tables. I often make a vegetarian* Christmas pud because I like to light things on fire, but I've made homemade mince too.

*Vegetarian puds must be smaller- a one liter pudding basin is good- because vegetarian fats melt sooner in the steaming process than suet, and then sink to the bottom (top). The deeper the bowl the more pronounced this phenomenon; and the goopier the top of your vegetarian steamed pudding is when you upend it out of the bowl.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:24 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]

I just learned about toast racks. What’s going on with toast in Britain that you need the individual pieces of toast to stand up vertically on the table?
posted by chrchr at 6:28 PM on January 23

Toast racks stop the toast from getting soggy by allowing moisture to get away - if you just stack it up, the slices form moisture between them.
posted by dg at 6:57 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]

if you just stack it up, the slices form moisture between them.

It has honestly never, ever occurred to me that this was a problem that needed to be addressed.
posted by 1adam12 at 7:08 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]

Wish they'd kept the Britain/USA thing going and pitted It's a Wonderful Life against A Christmas Carol (the one with Alister Sim).

Or we could go with a third, “unity” option, The Muppet Christmas Carol, which was a U.S. production, but featured the excellent British actor Sir Michael Caine in the starring role!
posted by darkstar at 7:10 PM on January 23 [3 favorites]

but I've made homemade mince too.

Hopefully not in the context of Christmas sweets!

"Mince" only refers to meat which has been minced, aka "ground beef". "Mincemeat" is the word for the chopped dried fruit product that goes in mince pies. It contains neither mince nor meat, although it does contain suet.

It's possible to make a pie with mince but then that's not a mince pie, it's a minced beef pie.

posted by quacks like a duck at 12:16 PM on January 24

I don't know why it just says "mince" there, was typing on my phone.

I would think in context you'd know what I meant. HTH
posted by oneirodynia at 12:53 PM on January 24

I live in the UK and mince pies are terrible and they get thrust into my face every December with people insisting I must try some because maybe I'll like it this time and after years and years of trying to choke down those disgusting things I really wish people would believe me when I say no your mince pie is not some special mince pie that will suddenly reveal to me a whole new wonderful mince pie world
posted by kyrademon at 7:50 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]

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