It seems only a year or three ago that we were in the midst of New Year hysteria, waiting to see the end of the ’90s, counting the seconds until the dawning of that bright, shiny new year, 2000, the beginning of a new millennium.
Now, here we are, somewhat jaundiced and certainly less exuberant, awaiting the end of the first decade of that hopeful time.
How can 10 years fly by at such a breathtaking pace?
I, for one, am trying to recall just what I did with those 10 years, besides writing some 500 columns, more or less.
Did we have any clue, back on Dec. 31, 1999, that a decade later, we’d be in the deepest recession (depression?) most of us have ever experienced; that so many millions of people would be jobless, struggling just to keep their heads above water?
Could we imagine, as we raised our glass of champagne in a toast to 2000, that we’d be engaged in a seemingly never-ending war, a war that could eclipse both Korea and Vietnam in duration? Or that this country would be so deeply in debt that our great-grandchildren will still be trying to dig out from under that burden, probably when they’re awaiting 2050?
Of course not, nor did we ever imagine that our cell phones, Blackberries, iPods, laptops, blogs and Facebook would virtually take over our lives.
Why, back in 2000, I had a goodly number of friends with whom I kept in touch via e-mail, actual hand-written notes and letters, and phone calls.
Now, with little or no effort on my part, I have friends all over the world, contacting me every day, wanting to “chat” or send me their photos on Facebook. In fact, some of them even want to meet me for a “let’s get acquainted” get-together, and some want to know if we can “date.” I’m not sure I fully understand what they have in mind, but whatever it is, I’m not telling John. He has his own Facebook page.
I’ve avoided making New Year’s resolutions for many years now, simply because it seems an exercise doomed to fail, especially if you’re in the midst of New Year’s Eve euphoria when you make them.
That doesn’t mean however, that I won’t give some thought, probably about mid-January, to a few things that definitely need changing in our lives, and then set about trying to do just that. And yes, Diane, my kitchen will get painted!
On New Year’s Eve, 1999, as we watched 2000 roll in, I do recall idly thinking, “I wonder where we’ll be 10 years from now, in 2010?” It seemed infinitely far away, at that point. Well, I’m about to find out the answer to that question, and if I have any New Year’s wish at all, it is to SLOW IT DOWN, PLEASE.
Best wishes for a happy, healthy, up-swinging New Year to all our readers.
There are many food traditions associated with starting a new year; my family, for instance, always had to have oysters, symbol of prosperity, on the menu in one form or another.
And, because it was available, I grew up expecting venison on the table New Year’s Day, along with the salmon and oysters. Talk about the good old days!
Pork or ham is traditional for many Americans, along with sauerkraut for some, beans for others. There should be cake in the form of a ring to recognize that the year has come “full circle” and many families cook a small coin or trinket into the cake. The one who gets the prize will have a very good year. And in some households, a dozen fresh grapes will be consumed in the minutes before midnight, the goal being to eat the twelfth grape in the seconds before the clock strikes the hour.
Because their availability time flies by as quickly as the years, pomegranates are always a treat to be enjoyed, especially over the holiday season. Because the seeds (arils) are jewel-like, pomegranates symbolize wealth and prosperity; they are also loaded with antioxidants and have been said to ease arthritic pain, stomach ache, and even to reduce the growth of some cancers. Putting together a beautiful New Year’s Day pomegranate salad is an easy and delicious way to begin the next decade.
NEW YEAR’S POMEGRANATE SALAD
8 radicchio leaves*
5 cups frisée (curly lettuce)*
1½ cups lambs lettuce*
½ cup pomegranate arils**
1 cup julienned jicama
For the vinaigrette: ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 T. pomegranate juice**
2 T. fresh lime juice
2 t. sugar
Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
1 T. chopped fresh cilantro
Make the vinaigrette: whisk together the oil, pomegranate juice, lime juice, sugar and cayenne. Season with salt and pepper; set aside.
Be sure greens are rinsed and spun dry. Tear frisée into pieces, if desired. Combine greens, jicama, pomegranate arils in a large bowl. Add the cilantro to the vinaigrette; toss with the salad. Serve immediately. Serves 4; easily doubled.
* Instead of buying, preparing these individual greens (or any greens of your choice) consider buying a 6 oz. package of mixed spring salad greens, so much easier and quicker.
** If you buy a fresh pomegranate and remove the arils yourself (a bit time-consuming, and keep in mind that pomegranate juice stains), you’ll also have the juice from the pomegranate; if you buy the already packaged and prepared arils, which are readily available at this time of year, you’ll also have to buy some pomegranate juice for the vinaigrette; no problem, as a little chilled vodka with pomegranate juice and a touch of lime makes a nice New Year’s Day healthy libation from excess juice.
Note: You can add any other ingredient you wish to the salad, such as a diced apple, ruby grapefruit segments, sliced cooked beets, etc.
In the southern parts of this country, there is a ham-and-bean dish called Hoppin’ John that is a very traditional New Year’s offering. It’s a hearty, stomach-warming way to head into January, and eating a dish of Hoppin’ John will, they say, bring good luck all year.
2½ cups water
1½ cups dried black-eyed peas or cowpeas, sorted and rinsed
1 t. dried thyme
2 bay leaves
½ cup uncooked long-grain white rice
¼ t. salt
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced (I use 4)
1-2 T. olive oil
1/8 t. hot pepper sauce
3-4 oz. thinly sliced cooked ham, or thinly sliced prosciutto, chopped or diced
In a large saucepan, bring water, peas, thyme and bay leaves to a boil over med.-high heat. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 40-50 min., or until peas are tender. Drain, reserving about 3 T. of the cooking liquid; remove bay leaves.
Meanwhile, cook rice according to package directions, using the ¼ t. salt in the rice. In a skillet, cook the onion and garlic in heated olive oil until onion is tender.
In a bowl, combine all the peas, rice and onion/garlic; add reserved liquid, hot pepper sauce and ham or prosciutto, and chopped parsley. Stir to mix well and serve warm.
Note: You can use frozen black-eyed peas, cutting the cooking time down, or to make it really quick and easy, use canned black-eyed peas.
I have a personal New Year’s Day tradition; never begin a new year without chocolate in some form. This delicious cake not only fulfills that requirement, but is also in the ring shape I mentioned in the column. If you wish, bake a coin or some meaningful little prize into the cake (well-cleaned, please).
CHOCOLATE POUND CAKE
3 cups cake flour (note cake flour, not self-rising)
1 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
1 t. salt
4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
1 T. vanilla
8 large eggs
2 T. instant espresso powder dissolved in ¼ cup warm water
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting
Butter and flour a 3 qt. Bundt pan, knocking out excess flour. (If you don’t have a Bundt pan this large, use two smaller pans). Into a bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder and salt.
In a large bowl with electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla and then eggs, one at a time, and beating well after each addition.
With mixer on low speed, beat in flour mixture gradually until just combined. Beat in espresso mixture and pour batter into prepared pan. Bake in middle of a preheated 350-degree oven about
1 hr. 20 min., or until a tester comes out clean. (If you’re using two smaller Bundt pans, they will probably cook in about 40-45 min.) Cool cake in pan on a rack for 10 min., then turn out onto rack to cool completely. Just before serving, sift confectioners’ sugar evenly over cake. (I sometimes pour a thin chocolate glaze over this cake just to be sure of getting enough of that New Year’s Day chocolate).