There is something about the holiday season that makes me wax a bit nostalgic. Perhaps because we remember the holidays from our childhoods, but there is something in the air that brings me back to a simpler time. And whoa, the older I get, the more I realize how simple the times were and I am talking the 1980’s!
My love of food started way back when I had the privilege to be born and live on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, home to some of the world’s best foods. Our family traditions were pretty much the same for the 20 some years we lived there. For our Christmas Eve party my mom would travel 20 blocks north for all her meats from the Madison Avenue butcher, her favorite having lived in the neighborhood in the early 70’s. She got all the fish she need just next door at the fishmonger. Canapes and spreads came from William Poll over on Lexington Avenue in the mid 70’s, much closer to home on 72nd. Produce and of course the Christmas morning Panettone hailed from Grace’s Marketplace, the uptown location of Balducci’s which opened in the mid 80’s saving us from trekking down to Greenwich village to shop at the original. Last but not least, the smoked salmon and Stollen came from the Danish specialty store Fraser Morris on 74th and Madison.
What I am getting at is, the Holidays, of which food is such and important piece, used to mean traveling all over the city to find the best and freshest of whatever you were seeking out, made by a skilled food artisan who delighted in offering you the very best product for your holiday feast. I loved going with my mom to these unique small shops and exchanging holiday cheer with shopkeepers and seeing all the amazing foods and smelling the incredible pungent smells of the season, even at the fishmongers!
Today since I live out in rural Cape Cod, much of which is shut down for the season, things are a bit different. I will still head to my local fishmonger, so grateful to still have one, I think scallops might be on the menu this year and the local butcher for the filet, which I won’t eat but will be a favorite of my daughter’s on the Christmas Dinner menu. Lucky for me my mom was in Manhattan this week and will be bringing up the Stollen and Panettone and my connections with local farmers will ensure I get the best local produce available, lucky I love those winter greens and squashes. And as far as Christmas treats, the girls and I have been baking cookies every year for as long as I can remember and I don’t see that changing anytime soon, except this year we will be adding my new Sea Salt and Caramel Pecan Bars to our baking menu!
Food is one of the best ways to steep yourself in tradition and help you and your family connect in unique ways. Honor your family roots with traditional dishes and try going out on a limb and incorporating something new. Food is what brings us together, lets give it the respect it deserves.