What Adam Smith Ate: A Holiday Feast

what adam smith ate holiday feast holiday menu hogmanay

December 1, 2022

We present a special holiday What Adam Smith Ate with a menu for you to create your own Christmas or Hogmanay feast.  These dishes are perfect for winter and feature the best of the winter season. It’s a perfect meal to celebrate with friends and family for one of the many opportunities to eat and drink this holiday season. 
Many accounts of holidays in the 18th century revolve around food.  At Christmas time, families or friends might travel long distances then stay through Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve and Day). Epiphany, on Jan 6, generally signaled the end of the season. Since travel was long and tedious, many households planned parties, balls, dinners, and other celebrations for their guests so they could stay for a week or two.

As the end of year approaches for us in the 21st century, we present a special holiday What Adam Smith Ate with a menu for you to create your own Christmas or Hogmanay feast.  These dishes are perfect for winter and feature the best of the winter season. It’s a perfect meal to celebrate with friends and family for one of the many opportunities to eat and drink this holiday season. 

When it comes to Christmas, the day itself wasn’t the big holiday it is today. Many of the traditions we associate with the holiday didn’t originate until the Victorian Era. Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, brought many of his favorite holiday customs with him from Germany. Christmas trees, Father Christmas, gift-giving, and even gingerbread weren’t part of the holiday until the mid-1700s Christmas. In Scotland, Presbyterians (and other Protestants) celebrated in a quiet way.

For Christmas, servants and families decorated homes with fresh evergreen boughs and heated pots of mulled wine scenting homes with the scents of cinnamon, cloves and other spices. Holly with red berries and mistletoe surrounded candles that burned late into the evening over lively conversations.  Mince pies, often handed to the poor, where the tradition of the day.

However, there were plenty of opportunities for feasts – namely at Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) and Epiphany (Jan 6). 

We know Smith celebrated Christmas when he could with his mother and cousin at home in Scotland.  However, he also traveled during this time, so we have to assume that he enjoyed more than a few feasts with friends in London or Scotland. What would we eat if we dined with Smith, perhaps with his former pupil, the Duke of Buccleuch, at his estate at Dalkeith? (We know Smith remained close to the young Duke after his marriage and frequently visited the estate.) 

Want to create your own feast like Adam Smith would have eaten?  Here are some ideas for your own home.  A meal during Smith’s time would have been served in removes which is similar to family style. It’s easy to put all the dishes (except the desserts) on the table at one time and let everyone serve themselves by passing them around. (You won’t have to bribe a footman to put your favorite dish nearby.

Most of us don’t have servants, so we’ve offered a few tips and tricks for feeding a crowd successfully. Try these recipes to make a meal worthy of celebrations.

Christmas Punch:  As your guests arrive, greet them with this refreshing Christmas punch. You can make this punch early in the day and pour over ice when guests arrive.  Or, for a festive touch use a punch bowl and make decorative ice. Pour a mixture of half orange juice, half water into a donut pan or decorative tube cake pan. Add some fruit like strawberries or orange slices and freeze, then turn out and add to the punch bowl.  

Smoked Trout Rillettes:  This easy fish pate is easy to make a day or more ahead.  Simply put it into a decorative jar or bowl, seal it tightly, and refrigerate. It’s perfect served with fresh bread or crackers. If you have more people and want to expand your appetizer platter, just add some cheeses, mustard, cornichon, or even cooked, sliced French sausage.

Goat Cheese and Endive Salad: As a nice alternative to a salad, most of this easy dish can be made early in the day before you dinner.  Mix the herbs and goat cheese the day before, then let come up to room temperature on the day of your dinner. Separate, rinse, and dry the endive leaves and stuff with the goat cheese.  Add the pear slices at the last minute so they don’t turn brown.

Oyster Soup (or David Hume’s Soup a la Reine): Soup is always easy to make ahead of time. In fact, most soup is better with a day or two to blend the flavors. You can even reheat carefully on the day of your party. Pro tip: Heat the soup bowls in the oven at 350 for 10 minutes to help keep the soup piping hot once served. 

Beer-Braised Pork Loin Roast: This roast is a beautiful centerpiece to your table, with one caution. Don’t over cook it. Make sure you use a meat thermometer and pull it at the lowest setting. Don’t worry about it being undercooked since it will hold its temperature while it rests. 

Roast Goose or Pheasant with Onion Sauce: Depending on if you choose pheasant, goose, or another game bird, cook to temperature not by time. Once it comes out of the oven, cover it with aluminum foil to keep warm while you make the gravy or sauce with any drippings.

Rumbledethump:  Since this dish starts with mashed potatoes and turnips, it’s a great way to use up leftovers from a dinner earlier in the week. The day before your feast, you can make the casserole and put it in the refrigerator. Add the cheese and bake it just before your feast.

Mashed Turnips:  This one works best made the day or your feast. If you’re tight on time, you can cook the turnips the morning of your feast and mash them before serving.

Toasted Cheese (Scotch Rarebit): After your main meal, clear all of the dishes, and prepare for your next course. You can reset plates so people can sample cheese and dessert. To make the Scotch rarebit, you can assemble the cheese toasts ahead of time. Simply toast them in a preheated oven just before serving.

Apple Charlotte: This apple tart is easy to make the day before your feast. If you want to serve it warm, simply heat it in a 350F oven for 10 minutes. 

Cream Crowdie:  You can make the components of this dessert ahead like the oat crumble. Change the raspberries for seasonal fruit, like figs, and prepare ahead.  Just before serving, whip the cream and assemble the crowdie. For a centerpiece serve it in a large trifle bowl instead of individual glass dishes.  Make a little extra whipped cream to serve with the apple charlotte.

Ice Cream:  Any flavor of ice cream will compliment your feast and can be made up to a week ahead of time. Simply pull it from the freezer about 10 minutes before serving so it can relax, or soften to make for easy scoops.