The very first year-end holidays Mike and I spent together involved multiple airports and airplanes, as we journeyed from New York to Birmingham to Evansville and back again to New York (bookended by an added Boston-to-NYC leg for me) – a flurry of travel that would test any couple’s patience, but which left us pretty certain we were a good fit. In the years since, our holidays have often been just as much a blur, whether due to a frantic pace, a bit too much tippling, or some combination of the two. But this year’s celebration was very different, and without question, it was the best one yet.
When Mike and I were a family of two (plus cats), we got into the habit of spending the bulk of our holiday time, money and energy on food and drink, in part because we often couldn’t afford much in the way of gifts for each other, but also because the food and drink are the part of the celebration that matters most to us. Without family nearby, we’ve been free to create our own holiday traditions – or to ignore longstanding rituals and make the celebration into whatever we like. Mostly, we’ve done a little of both.
We were introduced to the Feast of the Seven Fishes while living in Brooklyn, and despite having no claim to Italian heritage, we carried that Christmas Eve tradition with us to the Ocean State. This year’s version took on a bit of a Spanish flavor, with boquerones and cava among our starters, and a chorizo-spiked seafood stew the main attraction.
Our customary Christmas morning spread of “bagels and bloodies” (with Mike’s home-cured salmon) proved to be just the thing to sustain us while helping a wide-eyed, wiggly 3-month old open his many presents from generous family members, and it feels like a tradition that can grow with us in the years to come.
We have often had a “go big or go home” attitude toward Christmas Day feasting, celebrating with multiple courses and complicated preparations, but this year we dialed way back, starting with a few choice nibbles from our favorite cheesemongers, then a beautiful beef rib roast from our local butcher. We prepared it using the unbelievably simple method perfected by Anne Seranne, and served it with Fergus Henderson’s twice-baked duck fat potatoes, and our friend Liz’ wonderful spinach gratin.
Our New Year’s Eve was even more low-key, with a hearty brunch of baked eggs at home, then a good long walk (which we repeated the next day), some prep for the following day’s dinner, and then early to bed for all three of us.
Mike did mix up a round of French 75s to help the two of us toast the coming year after the baby was asleep.
As in years past, we welcomed 2012 with a few good luck foods, though we did change things up a bit: after five (delicious) years of choucroute garnie, Mike decided to make a cassoulet instead, with creamy Maine beans, his own home-cured bacon, and a plethora of porky odds-and-ends. If this year is anywhere near as rich as that meal was, we’re going to be very happy campers.
While the holidays themselves stretched out at a slow and leisurely pace, the weeks since have been a blur. We’ll take our beautiful tree down tonight, packing up the lights and ornaments and storing them away for another year. I’m sad to see them go, but we’ve got big things to look forward to this year. I can’t wait to see where those shiny orbs will be hanging next time we pull them out of their boxes.