Gosh. How is it that this will be the last post of December? The last post of the year? And what better way to celebrate than to raise a glass to the amazing gals at The Kitchn for hosting me as a guest writer today. I’ve been a big fan of the site for some time, but even cooler is the fact that some of my favorite bloggers like her and her and him were featured as guest writers this holiday and I’m honored to be in their company. So head on over to check out the post there. And I thought I’d re-post it for you here. Cheers to a full, dynamic, and inspiring 2010 with many new recipes, friends, stories, and travels. And in other A Sweet Spoonful news, the site redesign is almost done and should be up soon, soon, soon. I’m so excited to share it with you. Happy, happy New Year! See you in 2010.
Well folks, it’s over. The hustle is no longer hustling and the stockings are waiting to be packed up for the next go ‘around. An ungodly amount of See’s Candy has been consumed, and we’re slowly making our way through leftovers and the last dregs of eggnog. Now if you’re anything like me (read: efficient first child), you’ve broken down boxes, recycled wrapping paper, and put your new gifts away. Heck, maybe you’ve even got your thank you notes ready to roll.
Yes, it’s true: I’ve put Christmas behind me and I’m looking ahead to the next big thing. So I’ve started to think about the New Year with mixed emotions of excitement and hesitation. During the weeks following New Years Day, people are resolution-happy, vowing to finally lose those pesky five pounds and get organized. It becomes very hard to park at the gym, and families race to the mall to return gifts that weren’t quite right. The bustle starts up again. However, with it comes a few good things, too. It’s a symbolic fresh start, a do-over, a ‘if this year didn’t go quite as planned, you’ve got another shot.’ While I’m not one for resolutions, I am one for taking stock, being thankful for what I have, and thinking about where I’d like to see myself in the coming year ahead.
When I was in college, I worked at a sweet little paper store in Boulder, CO and the owner would always ride her bike up Left Hand Canyon and just sit with herself on New Years Day. At the time, I found it equally puzzling and intriguing. A part of me thought it was a good idea to force yourself into some quiet time and another part of me felt the antsiness ensue. While you won’t find me climbing any steep grades this year, I am making a list of things I’m thankful for that happened this year, and goals or wishes I have for the year ahead. So far it looks a little something like this: get to really know my new San Francisco neighborhood by foot; get in touch with Sara and Alice, my two childhood friends; learn to poach a perfect egg; plan a big trip that involves lots of eating, flip-flops and very little luggage; try and figure out what I want to be when I grow up; not stress about the fact that I’m 30 and have no idea about the aforementioned; start rock climbing at the gym in the Marina; learn more about vintage cocktails. What’s on your list this year? Resolutions or wishes?
While you ponder that, I want to leave you with a simple New Years Day recipe for black-eyed peas. There are a number of foods that are traditionally thought to bring luck and good fortune and are, thus, eaten at the start of a new year. Black-eyed peas are really more of a Southern tradition; friends I have that hail from the South wouldn’t dream of having a New Years Day without them—with a little okra and pink rice on the side, of course.
Someone once told me that black-eyed peas symbolize good fortune because they grow and swell when you cook them. Who couldn’t use a little good fortune and luck this year? So here’s hoping the start of your New Year is more humble than harried, and that luck and good fortune find their way over to your place.
This recipe is originally from famed Southern cook, Eula Mae Dore’s cookbook, Eula Mae’s Cajun Kitchen. Saveur republished it on their website. One quick note: although the recipe dictates a cooking time of two hours, my peas cooked in a little over an hour and were delicious.
Combine the peas, onion, garlic, water, salt, black pepper, Tabasco, and sausage in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the peas are tender and creamy, 45 minutes for fresh peas and about 2 hours for dried peas.
Stir in the parsley and green onions and cook for about 2 minutes longer. Serve either over hot cooked rice or mixed together with it.
The Thanksgiving Table
Today is a different kind of day. Usually posts on this blog come about with the narrative and I manage to squeeze in a recipe. But sometimes when you really stumble upon a winning recipe, it speaks for itself. We'll likely make these beans for Thanksgiving this year. They're one of those simple stunners that you initially think couldn't be much of a thing. And then they come out of the oven all sweet and withered and flecked with herbs. You try one and you realize they are, in fact, a pretty big thing.
I always force myself to wait until after Halloween to start thinking much about holiday pies or, really, future holidays in general. But this year I cheated a bit, tempted heavily by the lure of a warmly-spiced sweet potato pie that I used to make back when I baked pies for a living in the Bay Area (way back when). We seem to always have sweet potatoes around as they're one of Oliver's favorite foods, and when I roast them for his lunch I've been wishing I could turn them into a silky pie instead. So the other day I reserved part of the sweet potatoes for me. For a pie that I've made hundreds of times in the past, this time reimagined with fragrant brown butter, sweetened solely with maple syrup, and baked into a flaky kamut crust. We haven't started talking about the Thanksgiving menu yet this year, but I know one thing for sure: this sweet potato pie will make an appearance.
It has begun. Talk of who is bringing what, where we'll buy the turkey, what kind of pies I'll make, early morning texts concerning brussels sprouts. There's no getting around it: Thanksgiving is on its way. And with it comes the inevitable reflecting back and thinking about what we're thankful for. And about traditions. The funny thing about traditions is that they exist because they've been around for a long time. Year after year after year. But then, one Thanksgiving maybe there's something new at the table.
I didn't expect green beans to bring up such a great discussion on traditions, sharing of poems and how a piece of writing can linger with you. So thank you for that. Your comments pointed out how important people and place are and how food takes the back seat when it comes right down to it. Even if you feel quite warm towards Thanksgiving and are looking forward to next week, reading about recipe suggestions and meal planning online and in magazines can start to feel tiresome right about now. Why? Because I suppose when it all comes down to it, in the big picture it doesn't matter what we all serve anyway. Next year, you likely won't remember one year's vegetable side dish from another. What you'll remember are the markers that dotted the year for you: whom you sat next to at the table, a toast or grace, and the sense of gratitude you felt for something -- large or small.
I got a text from my mom the other day that read: demerara sugar? I responded back with a question mark, not sure what she was referencing. It turns out she was experimenting with a new pie recipe that called for the natural sugar and wasn't sure why she couldn't just use white sugar as that's what she's always done in the past. A few days later we talked on the phone and she mentioned she'd let me take charge of the salad for Thanksgiving this year as long as there was no kale. No kale! And I wanted to do the mashed potatoes? Would they still be made with butter and milk? In short, we're always willing to mix things up in the Gordon household. Whether it's inspiration from a food magazine, friend or coworker, either my mom or one of my sisters will often have an idea for something new to try at the holiday table. But what I've slowly learned is that it can't really be that different: there must be pumpkin pie, the can of cranberry sauce is necessary even though not many people actually eat it, the onion casserole is non-negotiable, the salad can't be too out there, and the potatoes must be made with ample butter and milk. And while I was really scheming up an epic kale salad to make this year, there's a big part of me that gets it, too: if we change things too much we won't recognize the part of the day that comes to mean so much: the pure recognition. We take comfort in traditions because we recognize them -- because they're always there, year after year. And so today I present to you (mom, are you reading?): this year's Gordon family Thanksgiving salad.