The Spinoff reviews New Zealand #77: Christmas mince pies

We review the entire country and culture of New Zealand, one thing at a time. Today, Don Rowe pays tribute to the Christmas mince pie.

This should surprise nobody, but: the only good mince pies are Christmas mince pies. That’s not an opinion, not a ‘hot take’, that’s a cold, hard fact. Fruity, sweet and spicy, if the Chrimbo pie was a person, you’d want him at your party. Leave your soggy ground-up cow-head shit pies for morning site smoko. If I wanted a mouthful of hot sludge I’d blend a Big Mac.

The only pie to be looked down upon by Puritans in the English Civil War, Christmas mince pies trace their origins right back to the bloody old Holy Crusades!  The Crusaders, returning to dreary England replete with the delights and diseases of the Middle East, brought with them the revolutionary concept of food with flavour. Spices and fruits and all manner of hedonistic delicacies titillated the Brits, who were otherwise busy putting skirts on tables lest they get horny over the legs.

By the time of the Jacobeans they called them minched pies – ‘minched’ could be an adjective for the way I feel when people turn their noses up at the blessed Good Pie. It’s no surprise that it was in this period Shakespeare wrote his finest works, quaffing a few CMPs, dusting the sugar from his bardic fingers and proceeding to invent most of the dictionary. Needless to say, this is also the age of the King James Bible.

They’re mysterious, exotic, confronting and bold. They’re pies for the mature palate. Pies for adults. Pies for people in open relationships. Pies for the fluid of temperament. Christmas pies will kiss your wife and you’ll say thank you, because she made the pie, and so there’s nothing really to be jealous about. You wouldn’t beat up your child, would you?

Christmas mince pies are the only food that are consumed purely at Christmas. In a world of January hot cross buns, Halloween in June and fireworks all fucking year, verily are mince pies a seasonal gift. They centre you in a place in time. They conjure memories of presents and pine needles and vomiting eggnog from your nose the first time you got shit-faced. Maybe your grandma made mince pies, and you dusted them in sugar, and she’s dead now. But for one moment, one mouthful, grandma is back. You can see the liver spots on her gnarled hands as she struggles with the kitchen knife, her milky cataract eyes. Look how she slumps! How precious!

But the true beauty of the Christmas mince pie is in knowing that when the rest of the food is gone, when the pav is done and the ham has gone cold, you can still count on a cheeky Chrimbo, because it turns out most people have little to no taste. They lack the fortitude, the maturity, the moral complexity to wrap their gear around the most delightful of yuletide treats. To my mince warriors, I salute you.

Verdict: Rich, exotic, flirtatious, formidable – the Christmas mince pie is the treat of the season, if you’ve got the stones for it.

Good or Bad: Good.

– Don Rowe


The Spinoff’s food content is brought to you by Freedom Farms. They believe talking about food is nearly as much fun as eating it, and they’re excited to facilitate some good conversations around food provenance in Aotearoa New Zealand.

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