Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Hidden Almond

A few days ago I presented my readers (yes, that's you! pad yourself on the back if you will!) with a recipe for the Danish Christmas dessert, "Ris a la Mande" (pronounced "Rees a la mang") and I hope some of you tried it out and found it as delicious as I do.

However, there was something I completely forgot to mention. This dessert can of course be used any time of the year, although it doesn't happen often here in Denmark. And the reason would probably be that there is a certain tradition connected to it:

The Hidden Almond

The tradition of the Hidden Almond is a simple game and it has a great way of bringing people closer together during the Christmas Dinner or during any other gathering in the time of Christmas. 

Note: In Denmark we have a tradition for Christmas Lunch, were colleagues, the widened family or a circle of friends or neighbours get together and share a meal during those dark days around Christmas (if you've been to Scandinavia during December you know how dark it can be with the sun rising round 7.40 in the morning and setting round 5.40 in the evening)

The Hidden Almond goes like this:

Making the Ris a la Mande the cook saves a single almond after they've all been unskinned. This almond is not to be chopped like the others, but is instead put into the dessert whole. Be sure to stir enough so that even the cook doesn't know where the whole almond is.

The rest is very simple: everyone digs in and the one who gets the whole almond wins the Almond Prize, which can really be anything you can think of. When I was a kid, the Almond Prize was usually chokolate or something else for the sweet tooth, but in our family we usually get some kind of game and wrap it in neatly like you would a Christmas Present. We've had "Partners," a game of working together, "Donkey," which is an old game anyone can play from the 5-year-old to great grand-pa. In other families I've heard they have the Almond Prize be decoration for the Christmas tree or something creative to pass time together.

Really there are no rules. The prize can be anything you like. Still, I find that the game is most fun if the prize is something we can all share during Christmas.

As a little side remark I'd like to share with you this great idea for an Almond Prize that will be a great idea if you don't have small children in the house: A goat! - not for the winner, but for an African family, who really need it. I'll make a post on that in the new year, because it doesn't have to be something you do during Christmas...

Borrowed from (I'll try to find an international equivalent to this organization for a post on helping those in need)

Oh, yes, I almost forgot: 

One of the fun things about this tradition is if the winner can wait to reveal that he or she has won. Hiding the almond in your mouth while keeping on eating your Ris a la Mande can make the game quite fun, because everyone is waiting for the winner to reveal himself.

A little additional funny thing: not everyone likes Ris a la Mande, but I've never heard about anyone completely refusing to eat it - those, who don't like this dessert, usually have one plate full to participate in the game. My wife is one of those people and in her family only a few actually like the dessert. So... the first few Christmases I had with her family, they all stared as I went in for seconds - after the winner had been found - and then someone would say (usually my wife) "You do know the Almond has already been found, right?"

But the truth is: I simply love this dessert!

If you tried out this dessert, please leave a comment below and tell me about it - even if you hated it, I'd like to know...

If you already tried the game of The Hidden Almond, I'd be happy if you could leave a comment and tell me about it as well... ;-)