Italian Vegan Christmas

Vegan panettone and vegan prosecco or spumante

Christmas, New Year and Epiphany are three festivities, one after the other, which mark the culmination of winter and help us with their charm to overcome the most difficult season of the year. In Italy Christmas is dominated by food, the New Year by sparkling wine, Prosecco and champagne and Epiphany is characterized by sweets and candies. Among the desserts displayed on the pastries and bakeries windows stands out the “panettone”, big  cake with raisins and candied fruits, born in Milan but now spread throughout Italy, and recently we easily found also the vegan panettone, without milk, butter and eggs.

Tuscan vegan Christmas cake, natural vegan panforte

But the most cheerful representative tuscan cake, symbol of these festivities since ancient times, and especially in Tuscany, is certainly the “Panforte” a gingerbread born in the Middle Ages and was called since then “Pan Natale” or “Pan Pepatus”: Christmas bread or peppered bread. Looking at its ingredients, we find that it is… naturally and most certainly vegan! In fact Panforte is made of precious ingredients, but also simple and natural: candied orange peel, precious cedar and even melon, toasted and chopped almonds, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg and pepper, combined with a bit of flour, sometimes cocoa and sugar syrup or similar, forming a dough which is put in a round plate, leaning on a light wafer made with potato starch and water: all simple ingredients, but making a unique flavor!

Tasting Italian vegan wines

In a vegan wine tasting tour you can sample some of these typical Panforte and find each one different because the details of their recipes, like the exact spices mixture are kept secret by master pastry chefs in competition with one another for the best panforte. Along with a rich slice of Panforte you could enjoy a cup of aromatic sweet wine such as Vin Santo di Toscana produced in Tuscany.

The Christmas tradition is also well represented by the Presepe, Nativity scene: the reconstruction of a poor, rural landscape with a shed where it is said Jesus of Nazareth was born. If we look carefully the many productions we meet on the street, in stores, in shop windows, in churches and in the house of friends, we realize that even the nativity scene, such as gingerbread, has an ancient tradition and is perfectly… vegan!

Ox and ass are the main characters

In Italy, the most important Presepe tradition is held by the city of Naples, where artisans have specialized in all kind of different small statues with thousand of details, but also Tuscany has considerable schools of terracotta, just take a trip in these weeks to find manger scenes, sometimes even moving, made with ancient machinery.

But there is more! If we look at the Presepe we realize that animals are very important: in fact, ox and ass are an essential part of it and we can say they are the main characters and they are as important as humans. History tells us that Jesus was born in a shed, animal’s home, among tame herbivores: men have pretended to forget it, but every year the manger can be a wise reminder!

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