The way I see it, most everyone in the world has two New Years per year. There is the collective event celebrated by a culture marking the beginning of the annual calendar. Whether it involves lighting firecrackers, eating grapes, watching crystal balls drop, drinking champagne, dancing dragons or dipping apples in honey, the festivities and symbolic gestures are recognized by everyone collectively. Then there is every person’s individual New Year, their birthday. A day to start your calendar at the beginning, begin a new cycle. Today begins a new year for me. Since I believe in doing things the right way, or at the very least giving it your best shot, I am trying to start this year off on the right foot. On this beautifully cold and crystal clear, blue-skied day, I am proceeding as follows.
First, a smoothie made with blueberries from a bag of Winter Sun Farms berries
that were hiding in the back of the freezer since last winter. That right there is a good way to start off a new year – clearing out the old to make way for the new. Just in time, too, as the new season of WSF starts next week! I have been meaning to start making yoghurt+fruit drink concoctions for breakfast for ages. Today was the day. It was good, though maybe a bit too big – I mean, that’s a lot of drinking to do in combination with one’s morning coffee.
I recently read about a pumpkin cake on Pink of Perfection that looked and sounded so tempting (she originally got the recipe from Martha). I had a sunshine squash on hand that badly needed to be et. If you’re unfamiliar with that kind of squash, it is a winter squash that is squatter, brighter and of a darker orange colour than a pumpkin. And smaller. And with very bright orange flesh. And it is very, very wonderful tasting. So wonderful that I was hoarding this particular one for a special occasion…until it reached the point of needing to be eaten asap, or else… I steamed it and mashed it and used it as a substitute for the canned pumpkin in the original recipe. It magically made the exact amount I needed, 1 cup of pureed squash. (I also made a few other adaptations to the recipe: I used less sugar (1 cup, instead of 1.5 cups of sugar, but then I prefer things a bit less sweet), a bit of extra cinnamon and I substituted ground cloves for the allspice and nutmeg, neither of which I had on hand). Friends were coming over and after dinner I sent them home with wrapped slices of cake to bring home. I then served some to a few other friends who dropped by the next day. I have a nice slice left for later – a sunny, moist, spicy cake with a coating of sweet icing. Perfect and wintery.
Finally, in a symbolic gesture – combined with a great deal of curiosity – I decided to crack open the rumtopf and give it a try. I rarely, if ever, drink alcohol during daylight hours, but in the name of starting off on a good foot (and ok, having something to write about here) I decided to have a tiny taste. When I opened the top of the pot I was met with a veritable cloud of fruit vapor. Strong and heady smelling, it made me kind of woozy just breathing it in. It seems some of the fruits in the top layer were slightly exposed to air as some turned brownish. But I dipped my spoon down under that top layer and came up with a piece of apple, still white, and another of peach. The fruit was surprisingly crisp, not mushy, and very strong tasting. I then filled a tiny aperatif glass with two sipfuls worth of the liquid and tried some. Very sweet, very round, very friendly, very strong. After my two sips I felt fortified and just a wee bit woozy. After a bit more coffee I proceeded with my day – off into the new year.
On another note, I have some photographs in a group show called EAT/ART (it is a food-related show that is co-sponsored by Just Food) at Atlantic Gallery in NYC. It is up until Dec. 23 and there is an opening reception tonight (Wednesday, Dec.8) from 6-8pm – if you happen to read this and are able to stop by, please do!