Fresh and Local: Holiday comfort food

By Penny & Ed Cherubino

What special comforting foods do you plan to include in this year’s holiday celebrations? Food and feasting are part of the Christmas, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, and Kwanzaa year-end celebrations. ​​When you reflect on past seasons, it may be friends and family gathered around food traditions that you remember most clearly.

Penny always craves the French pork pie or tourtière her Aunt Sophie included in holiday meals. Ed often talks about the lasagna his grandmother made in addition to the turkey, ham, and numerous side dishes on their holiday table.

Many Italian families begin their December celebration with a traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas eve. Your holiday table may only be complete with mulled cider, roasted chestnuts, plum pudding, or even the much-maligned fruitcake. 

Holiday Baking

Even those who seldom bake often have one or two holiday specialties that they create this time of year. There are cultural traditions like Swedish gingerbread, Swiss Zimtsterne, German lebkuchen, French bûche de Noël, British mincemeat and plum pudding, and all-American toll house cookies.

Even those who don’t bake can buy a wide assortment of holiday baked goods. We always enjoy a selection of panettones. Penny is one of those hold-outs who still loves a good fruitcake! Yes, there are excellent fruitcakes available by mail order. This year’s selection came from the Vermont Country Store.

Making New Traditions

As we grow and our taste evolves, we may decide that some traditional foodways and holiday happenings don’t fit our current tastes or lifestyles. It is perfectly okay to make your own. We have substituted a pile of lobsters or Dungeness crabs for the feast of the seven fishes. 

This year we’ll combine Penny’s love of lobster with Ed’s passion for pasta and give the cook a night off. We’ll order the Lobster Spaghetti as take-out from Little Whale on Newbury Street to enjoy on Christmas Eve. 

After all, celebrations are a perfect time to be a bit extravagant. It’s also time to buy treats we’d typically avoid. Eggnog and whipped cream show up in the refrigerator with a plan to get back on track in the new year. 

New Year’s Eve

The new year is one holiday everyone can enjoy. We prefer a quiet New Year’s Eve celebration with particular food favorites and a great bottle of sparkling wine to being out and about with a big crowd. 

Most years, that is an evening of appetizers, great cheese, and charcuterie. It’s the perfect food to sit and enjoy over a long evening as we savor a great wine. Shopping for our celebration is half the fun. We visit our favorite area food and wine shops and wish them success in the new year.

While you enjoy your once-a-year holiday traditions, consider spreading the pleasure over the year by treating yourself to some of your favorite aspects of this season throughout the months ahead. 

For example, on New Year’s Eve 2007, we made a Sparkling Resolution that we have faithfully kept. We resolved to drink more sparkling wine and toast the first of every month with a glass of bubbles. We might give thanks for something nice that happened in the past month or raise a glass to an event or goal for the upcoming weeks. If you don’t drink wine, you can enjoy a glass of any special beverage. The point is to treat yourself to small celebrations of food and drink that lift your spirits. 

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