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Speaking Volumes: Make the most of the holiday season with foods from around the world

Tis the season of feasts and special dishes — everyone around the world indulges for winter holidays.

Here are a few samples of what you could be eating, where it’s from and where you can find the recipe with your local library card.

In some parts of China, families celebrate the Dongzhi Festival, or Winter Solstice Festival, on Dec. 21, by getting together and eating comforting warm foods.

Southern China more typically makes and eats tangyuan (balls of glutinous rice) that are sometimes brightly colored in pink or green. In Northern China, they eat dumplings for Dongzhi.

“Chinese Festivals Cookbook” by Stuart Thompson has recipes for both.

While Italians make their traditional Natale meal depending on the region, you can get a taste of an Italian Christmas by trying baccala — a salted cod dish — or any number of delicious pasta dishes with seafood. No meat though, to honor a long-standing Catholic tradition.

There are many ideas for full course meals in “Whatever Happened to Sunday Dinner? A year of Italian menus with 250 recipes that celebrate family” by Lisa Caponigri.

After much cheese and wine and wonderful courses, the French have a uniquely shaped dessert — Bûche de Noël.

It is a roll cake (Think Swiss roll or jelly roll) covered in chocolate frosting to look like a log of wood. You may also know it as a yule log — albeit an edible one.

For an easy yule log recipe, try “The Cake Mix Doctor” by Anne Byrn. Ingeniously, Byrn takes store-bought cake mix and “the right extras” to make simple cake creations.

In Poland, Boże Narodzenie is spent fasting all day and feasting after the first star appears.

Much of Christmas dinner is traditional and symbolic, including how many courses there are and that the only meat is fish — much like in Italy.

Try your hand at one of their holiday recipes — such as rolled herring (rolmopsy) or poppyseed cake (makowiec) — from “Authentic Polish Cooking” by Marianna Dworak, available through Hoopla with your library card.

In America, African-Americans have created and celebrate Kwanzaa, a week-long celebration taking place Dec. 26 through New Year’s Day.

Ultimately, the food is whatever you would like it to be, but often the feast will have African, Caribbean and South American cuisine to honor any lost heritage.

“Kwanzaa: An African-American Celebration of Culture and Cooking” by Eric Copage has many recipes, including duck and smoked sausage gumbo, Kingston meat patties, and pear and custard tart francaise.

For New Year’s, those in Japan eat a bowl of toshikoshi soba (year-crossing noodles) as they symbolize longevity and prosperity in life. Overall, the celebrations are a bit more subdued and private.

There are great soba recipes in “Japanese soul cooking: ramen, tonkatsu, tempura, and more from the streets and kitchens of Tokyo and beyond” by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat.

So, try one of these recipes, whether they are familiar or new. There are many regional cookbooks available through Hoopla with your library card.

For even more cooking tips and ideas this holiday season, check out Flipster’s cooking magazines: Clean Eating, Bon Appetit, Food Network Magazine and Rachael Ray Every Day.

Olivia Tucker is a Braden River Library assistant. Speaking Volumes, written by Manatee County Public Library System staff members, is published each Sunday in the Bradenton Herald. You can access the library at mymanatee.org/library.

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