Art #10

Christmas log

A few years ago, if you were in France by the beginning of December, you’d have witnessed a strange thing appearing on the windows of the Patisseries. A fad that seemed to have taken over everything from fashion magazines to small shops in suburbs : the renewal of the « traditional » yule log cake.

No designers worth his or her set of pencils without a trendy variation on it, the farthest from the cooking world the better.

Nowadays this trend has turned into a more back to basics approach, DIY inspired. Yet, the competition between cooks remains and culinary bloggers have a vast array of ideas on how to spice up your good old chocolate butter-cream roulade.

However, the « traditional » yule cake log is a tradition of the recent kind.

Let’s be brutally honest : yule cake is a cake no one really likes.

First, you usually just sat through a 4 courses meal of the greasy type and all you crave for is a nap. Then, it’s a meal of the family kind. Therefore, there’s a fifty-fifty chance that all communications have stopped after the last fight / row of passive-aggressive responses / choose your poison but you know what i’m talking about.

It seems yule logs were initially, wait for it : logs ! But of the worshiping kind.

I know, right ?

This special log is burned almost to the end but not quite and what’s left is kept so that it could fire the next yule bond in the home’s hearth.

The whole sugar and chocolate thing is supposed to be a turn of the -last- century thing : as usual « damn you XIXth century !». Yet, it is directly inspired by the original one, down to its shape with the little branch sticking out. More over, the most common and most liked ones were and are still adorned with items reminding of its forester origins : meringue mushrooms, chocolate holly leaves and marzipan deers or other characters. We’re not really sure where the plastic dwarfs with saws come from, though.

The shift in tradition using the very same idea and creating a new vessel for it is an ever present element in human history. Something new yet old that keeps transmitting its core values through the ages, with just the slightest changes.

As the holidays come by, look around you : heritage from those that where here before you is everywhere, hidden in plain sight, subtly reminding you. You yourself probably are doing it : no Christmas tree is ever complete without, you know, those old ornaments you hold so dear and that your children are teasing you about.

So if, this year, a cake version of the yule log comes to your table, remember : it means light and warmth will come to your home eventually.

Happy holidays to one and all !