Eat, drink and be wary

Eat, drink and be wary

Goa may have emerged as an international winter/New Year/party destination, but for its 3.5 lakh Roman Catholics Christmas remains a traditional religious and family celebration with little change in the culinary fare at the dining table.

But Christmas gifts and sweets are just a small part of the celebrations here. A striking feature in Goa is the huge turnout in the churches for the religious services on Christmas eve in an age when churches are being increasingly deserted by the young in the West.

In most homes here Christmas is ushered in by attending the midnight mass and then gathering at home for a slice of bebinca, dodol, doce and a glass of wine. Unlike Lisbon, where families come together on the eve of Christmas for the traditional dinner, a big lunch on Christmas day marks the focal point of the Goan Catholic festivities. On the menu usually are the roast suckling pig, sorpatel (a very spicy pork dish) with sannas (sweetened type of idli), chicken xacuti, duck cabidela, prawns, fish and a pullav.

The Portuguese may have brought Christianity and Christmas to Goa, but the celebrations here have acquired a local flavour that makes them quite distinctive. Replacing the turkey —which is something of a rarity these days — is the suckling pig, literally the centerpiece of the Goan festive table. Among sweets, the bebinca — a layered sweet made from egg yolks and coconut milk — and dodol (made of jaggery) stand apart as traditional Goan creations. The Portuguese have nonetheless left their culinary mark and sweets like queijadinhas (originally Brazilian), bolo sans rival (which means ‘cake unrivalled’) and pasteis de santa clara (pastries of St Claire) form as much a part of the Goan tradition as theirs.

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