The Pleasure of Planning! New Year's Day in Review
So glad to be back with you, hungry and heart-strong. I made so many meals that I wanted to share with you over the holidays, from Christmas cookies to dangerously boozy eggnog. It all went by too quickly! I was too covered with flour and cheese sauce! The meals got gobbled up and we all cuddled close and talked to each other without traffic or TV. Once in a while you take a trip or enter a space where you don't want to take pictures. You just want to be there and see what your memory can contain until you are very old and extra fond of saltines. Sometimes I just want to cook and be deep in the cooking. The planning, the process, the frenzied flight to the table, the first bites- all a quiet and peaceful poem in my head. The tide coming in which requires no comment. Other times I really want to gab food with you! The beginning of January takes lots of strength and courage my friends. The festivities and oh-so-needed breaks give way to the "business as usual", leaving us feeling rested or a bit blindsided. It gets colder and perhaps a little darker. We can forget to keep gathering.
One solution to this is brunch. Lots of brunch. More specifically, buns.
Wow, these buns mean business.
We rang (wait, we forgot to ring!) the new day in with a big brunch, with beloved friends and requisite bubbles. It was deliciously languorous. We stayed at the table from early afternoon until the winter's early night peeped over the brick buildings and onto the remains of mimosas and sticky buns. This is the kind of meal I relish and just can't get enough of. Folks talking around a table, spending hours together on a single meal that may or may not role into another one. Possibly a walk is squeezed somewhere in there. The thing is, that after all the planning and transporting of persons and food, there is only us. Foodies are not just obsessed with food, they are interested in what the food continues to produce in us and in each other. Brunch is my excuse ( my bribe, if it please you) to get everyone I love into one place and keep them there for a bit. My New Year's resolution for life is to persist in the gathering together, and in learning to keep those moment's close and strong in times of greater solitude. Sticky buns for goodness sake! Remember ritual, rhythm, celebration, and rest.
Part of what I love about cooking is the pleasure I find in planning. I adore orchestrating parties (especially if they involve a theme or costumes), dinner feasts, brunches, and events of all sorts. My mind is fully engaged figuring out the menu, ghost tasting and then rethinking each dish and dessert. I make grocery lists but once I write them down I don't even need them. It's all up there, tied together by anticipation but alive to fluidity. There is always room to add a dish, or a seat at the table, or subtract that fancy ingredient you could never find and replaced with mayonnaise.
I think at the root of all this planning and inviting is a stubborn desire to keep everybody together, to keep things stable, to be able to depend at least on seeing y'all at dinner. The world of 2014 reminds us again and again that we are as fragile as eggshells and as sturdy as broccoli stems. We can't always count on tomorrow, but we sure need to keep being brave enough to find different questions to replace the answers that are definately not working. Rilke said, "being here is so much." It is hard to realize this in moments of suffering or even everyday subway stress,but gosh do I know its true when I sit next to you.
Grand Messrs. Snowflake Flash
Brunch is awesome and can be super easy! Here is the quick menu I threw together so I could leave the kitchen when friends arrived and sip champagne like a rosy dame.
Roasted Asparagus, Sautéed Mushrooms and Hollandaise
Blue Cheese, Leak and Pear Breakfast Strata
Tater tot Nachos (I kid you not) & Pomegranate Guacamole
Eggnog Cinnamon Rolls (from this lovely lady)
BBQ Texas Tempeh
Last Minute French Toast Bake
If you have not heard of Tater Tot Nachos, aka "Tatchos", I suggest you make all haste to correct the oversight. You can buy Alexia Sweet Potato or plain potato bags in the freezer section and cover them with green onions, peppers, beans, ooo Siracha sauce, and all the cheeses. These tater tots are pretty good for you and this is a dish that comes together really quickly, inviting you to improvise. Another go-to for me is the commendably flexible breakfast strata. Cut up a loaf of good Italian or French bread, maybe even duex baguettes. When the bread is cubed, put it in a casserole dish along with different kinds of cheeses, sausage, bacon, and or veggies. Cover it with a cream and egg mixture and let it sit like bread pudding. Think savory bread pudding. I would say 8 eggs, 2 cups cream, and dash of salt for a 9x13 baking dish. Once it has soaked for at least an hour, you can pop it in the oven at 350 degrees. You want the egg mixture to set and the top to get golden brown and crusty. Go on, take a test bite...or a few. The cook's ransom I call it. Just pick you favorite breakfast foods and linger like a pro, it's brunch.
Last tip: make you own hollandaise sauce, you won't regret it. Don't be afraid to put it on everything. Serious breakfast is not for the faint of heart.
Happiest New Year to you voyagers! Here is to all those long conversations and laughs we need.
Here is to some more time to read poems, make mistakes, plan adventures, LOVE all things, and squint really lovingly at the things we cannot. Remember ritual, rhythm, celebration, and rest.