Behold! The true flavour of the holidays

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Graphic by Alan Li

 

We inhabit a corporate world and that means that we, as individuals, are valued on a greater scale by our ability to consume. Corporations — businesses both large and small — tap into that need, by which they can tailor our wants and desires to uplift their profit margins.

Merry Christmas!

Luckily, as a good consumer, this exercise in attaching dynamic sentiment, and thereby products, to synchronize to the calendar can be — for lack of a better word — fun.

There are a hundred different flavours that are in one way or another associated with Christmas, from mulled wine to sugar cookies to turkey stuffing — but this investigation parses those for the four fundamental options, the flavours that scale beyond their individual capacity and are thrown into coffee drinks, ice creams, even Pringles. White chocolate peppermint Pringles. It’s a real thing. Look it up.

Google reveals the options, and attempting to narrow them down is what becomes difficult: looking up Christmas snacks online, a red and green box of Cap’n Crunch’s Christmas Crunch boasts a “great fruity taste” — hopefully that means oranges and spices, though I doubt it.

This constructs the narrative that a great deal of Christmas snacks and foods are based on the aesthetic rather than the flavour — and that is incredibly problematic.

2017 was a year that saw the mass release of a Pumpkin Spice cheese over Thanksgiving, an absolutely ludicrous product which truly demonstrates how a season can authentically be distilled down to a single flavour.

Below, I’ve decided to run the most popular Christmas flavours through a meticulous rubric in order to determine once and for all the true flavour of Christmas.

SHORTBREAD

Shortbread is delicious but it is also an incredibly limited flavour. Essentially, you are tasting butter and sugar. While it’s inarguably an amazing combination, these fundamental roots are far too simple to qualify as the genuine taste of the season. Instead, shortbread is a base upon which greater, bigger profiles can be established. Shortbread is a great starting point, but it is not the flavour of the season.

EGGNOG

The main problem with eggnog is that it isn’t universally loved enough to qualify as the flavour of the season. Yes, it’s milky and frothy and mind-numbingly sweet and — arguably — so delicious, but the accessibility of the flavour kills it for defining the season. Because of its exclusively seasonal availability, eggnog takes third place.

PEPPERMINT

I expected that peppermint — more specifically, when combined with chocolate — was going to take the trophy of the true flavour of the season, and that is for several reasons: it’s cool like winter, yet perfectly sweet and strong and bold in a cup of cocoa. The adaptability is also there and is spread across a wide range of products — peppermint mochas, peppermint M&Ms, not to mention candy canes — but it is the requirement of chocolate to define it in most scenarios that pushes peppermint to second. And we shouldn’t forget about its year round use in a thousand routine products like toothpaste.

GINGERBREAD

This is our winner, and not just because it can be considered an evolved form of shortbread. From gingerbread houses to gingerbread lattes, this spicy, sweet flavour seeps into all sorts of Christmas traditions, and for good reason: it’s warming, it’s accessible and it can be used in a diverse spread of recipes because the flavour is essentially grounded in a simple blend of spices. Gingerbread is delicious enough, seasonably limited enough, and diluted enough down to a general essence that only it can truly take the trophy for the flavour of the season.

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