Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Holiday Spirit

Guests like to help.  I know this, every etiquette/hosting guide says this.  Every lifestyle personality urges get your guests in on it! It's more fun!
bull and shit. 

I would like to be that person who opens his kitchen, passes a spare apron, and says oh darling! chop these carrots however you feel regardless of how I'd like them! Even though you just pet my dog, don't worry about washing your hands since there are two people blocking the sink arguing about abortion.  But that's not me.  I'm a solo act.  I feel it's a strength that I at least recognize this; but in the scheme of things, it's probably a weakness. So maybe in 30 years when I'm alone on Thanksgiving, I'll reassess.  For now, the motto remains Darling! get the fuck out of the kitchen.
No one breaks and follows this rule more hilariously than my sister.  My sister has an uncanny and intuitive way of being in the way.  She also has a dramatic and obscene way of fleeing. 
You might have a picture of me in your head as being spastic around the kitchen.  I'm not.  I am very calm and quiet. My sister, on the other hand, is about as quiet and calm as a toddler without an iPad.  Before I take anything out of the oven, or from the range to the buffet, I make an announcement that I will be carrying something hot.  Clear the path, often demonstrate my path as to avoid a situation where I start making threats as my hands are burning through my stupid, ancient Williams-Sonoma oven mitts.  For the most part, everyone has learned to stay out of my way.  Except my sister.  She will nod and agree when I ask everyone to clear, and yet still be standing right there telling a story with arms flailing around and remain completely oblivious until I quietly say Vanessa. Move. To which she responds by throwing her hands in the air like a Top Chef contestant at the end of the clock and saying oh shit oh shit oh shit and finally scurrying out of the way.  Usually spilling some wine and knocking over a chair in the process. 
The Bota Box Malbec is actually pretty good.  And I think I could hang out with
Sandy Liles.
I easily forgive this in her because otherwise she is perfect.  She is, and has always been, my biggest supporter and closest confidant.  We work as a team, independently.  We are on the same page in terms of our family, keeping some traditions and letting others evolve.  We are each very respectful of each other's role in our family, and do not try to encroach onto each other's turf.  My sister runs the business of the family, and I get to rule the warm and fuzzy.  Each is equally important, and either of us would be awful at the other end of things. 
Where do I allow help on holidays?  Money and wine.  I'll happily accept either for the cause.  My sister has a natural knack for picking good wine.  Her secret is not buying anything with too beautiful or flashy of a label.  I seem to always pick bad ones.  So that is under her dominion.  I ask her to get the wine before the holiday.  It makes it easier for her, and much easier for me.  Last minute with your turkey resting is no time to be speed-chilling wine in the freezer, forgetting about it, and having a crackled bottle and wine slushie waiting for you.  Though a wine slushie is, in fact, quite good. 
I like prosecco all day any day, but I really do feel it's the perfect holiday wine.  It goes with anything, cuts through the richness without being assertive, and I think a popping bottle is essential to the holiday soundtrack.  Also, it seems bubbles keep people in a good mood.  So I almost always stick with that.  My sister likes to have a full armory of a little bit of everything, just in case. 

You may wish to stop one glass before Ramona. 
What do you serve? Do you ask your guests to bring wine? Do you get specific? 

34 comments:

  1. Agree about the prosecco - such a festive drink and most can not tell the difference between that and champagne in a blind test. We have tried and most failed except in the case of exceptional ones. Wines are just so political and people are always raising eyebrows and judging each other. I now like prosecco, beer, and gin so stay away from the wine discussions for myself. Winewise I have for guests sauv blanc and a pinot noir as a standard choice and try to be semi patriotic and look for Aussie wines in general. I don't usually ask people to bring anything - there have been incidents where I didn't proclaim to enough people that someone had brought so and so and comparing notes with friends this doesn't seem an isolated incident so I think it's simpler. If they have a specific need of a specific drink that is organic or sulphate free or yada yada I will try but I forewarn that guest that I haven't been able to procure it so at least they are warned. But I also try and serve one cocktail just for the fun factor. one of my best and popular ones was absinthe in a spoon with a sugar cube lit up but i tend to have the same people over so i had to give it up but that was a crowd pleaser and got people talking.

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    1. Naomi, did you know that I regard you as a drinks prophet? I had disliked Tanqueray for so long until you shared the tip about grapefruit, and it's now my favorite favorite. I drank absinthe once...and...uh...never, ever again. But your cocktail sounds so fabulous! Would love to know your favorite Aussie wines.

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    2. I tend to go for South Aussie, Victorian ( my state) and Tassie ( Tasmanian wine). My favorite pinot for some emotive reason is Pipers Brook pinot noir. I love it because it seems to suit most cuisine - it goes well with Chinese to Lebanese to a roast. There's a white wine that most Londoners go crazy for and admit that I also went a bit mad for it - it's called Cloudy Bay. But it's a kiwi wine. But it is crisp fresh delicious and you can just taste the fresh air. But it is now overpriced and hard to get. At one time they made you buy another bottle of some non descript wine in order to get a bottle of Cloudy Bay. But a general rule is that most Kiwi whites are very drinkable and a safe choice if choosing blind. I also serve sake or recioto with a chocolate dessert. I find that people drink really well for the most part for 2/3 of the dinner but seem lost at dessert. And a dinner like thanksgiving/xmas/hannukah/deepavali etc deserve an accompaniment through out no?

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  2. What a wonderful tribute to your sister...isn't it nice when the DNA divides up one set of skills with one sibling and another set with another one, so there's no competition, just cooperation! I have not asked anyone to bring anything to the holidays since someone brought one of those candied yam casserole thingies with marshmallows on top. Nope, they can bring themselves as their gift, and if they want to make it extra special, stay out of the kitchen -- I agree with you completely on the importance of that.

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    1. Thank you! I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of wine you serve! You are exactly right. My siblings and I are soooo lucky that we are so different. We never competed with each other which allowed each of us to have "our thing". Oh god the candied yams. I have never even tried that. I hate marshmallows so I've always been quite put off by the looks of it. But I'll admit I've wondered if it's actually good?

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    2. NOOOO it is not! It tastes exactly like you would imagine...a sweet yam (canned in syrup) with a sweeter candy on top. All it really needs is caramel syrup on top lol.

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  3. On the rare occasion that I do the family entertaining, I'm happy to say that my dad INSISTS upon being the sole provider of wine. This works out well as he has amazing taste in wine and always brings extras for us to keep. Also, since I married into a family of excellent cooks, I'm more than happy to have my sister-in-law jump in any damn place she wants because I probably asked her 49 thousand questions about how to cook whatever I'm making anyway. Now desserts ... that's my department. Don't f*** with it.

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    1. I like your dad already! And how nice that your sister in law is not just welcome, but embraced! I love it when in laws get on so well. I know you're on mashed potato duty, are you making any desserts as well? Saw celeriac in the store yesterday and thought of your celeriac mashed potatoes. Will you make a plain batch too? I love the flavor of celeriac. Just make sure your knife is sharp!

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    2. Oh yes, I'll be in charge of pies as well. Never pumpkin. I can't stand it and neither can most of the family so I always tell those who do like it that if they want pumpkin pie they can bring their own. Usually I do apple and pecan, but sometimes I change it up altogether. We'll see what happens this year. If I do the celeriac mashed potatoes I probably won't tell anyone until after they eat them (my nephews would revolt). And it's a good thing my sister-in-law get on well ... we're sisters-in-law twice over (we married each other's brothers).

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  4. Your sister sounds exactly like my husband, drives me crazy. Although, I cannot complain as he is real handy with the washing up or stacking the dishwasher - to be more precise. I have to agree I prefer to go solo in my kitchen, absolutely no time for discussing the meaning of life while chopping veg.( control freak perhaps ?) So much more fun to enjoy the company of my guests around the lunch or dinner table, The pastry commercial kitchens that I have worked in, one is always carrying heavy or oversized trays. To avoid an accident one would shout " Behind you ! " or if something is hot " Hot coming through " or " Hot behind ! " always seemed to get their attention. In the past, when my friends children were little I did ask them to bring the juice that they approved of. There was always the very real threat that I would give them as much Cola or Red cordial as they wanted. I know, I am a really good aunt that way - lol

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    1. Oh that's so nice he's a good cleaner. I'm bad about that too. I love my cooking equipment on an irrational level and don't rally even let people touch them. Luckily it's all so heavy now that few people can even lift them to fuss with them. I quite like that. You're a pastry chef?! What are your Thanksgiving desserts? And how do you feel about my lifestyle choice to put cream cheese in my pie crust?

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    2. Thanksgiving is unfortunately not celebrated in Australia. If it was I think ingredients which tell a Queensland story such as mango, bananas, ginger and macadamia nuts would be a start. Pie crust made with cream cheese sounds interesting. I see Martha Stewart has a recipe, will need to try it out.

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    3. Oh I'm sorry I didn't realize you were Australin! Oh your dessert idea sounds so fabulous. We get wonderful mangoes for about three weeks a year. The rest of the time, we have them-but they are underripe or flavorless.

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  5. I can't believe all of the people getting in my way in my kitchen, it's so annoying. I've been known to mutter about "fucking people" but then I realize it's my family and I feel guilty. But still to have them standing around: they need to get out. I like to get to the point by the end of dinner that I've had enough drinks/am pleased enough with the dinner that I can just walk away from the kitchen and leave it to my kids or to Pie(hubs nickname). Doesn't always happen but nice when it does.
    I tell people to bring booze because the food thing doesn't work, not with my planned menus, I don't care to have the hodge-podge of tastes. I'm always curious to see what people bring as far as wine but one thing I notice: they bring red and drink white, why? As a result I always make sure I have lots of white wine.
    And I agree prosecco is the perfect drink, I was just at the Happy Store today and I stocked up on it for the weekend. If we were next-door-neighbour friends we could drink it all day, it would be fantastic and terrible at the same time.
    XOX

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    1. That is so interesting about bringing red and drinking white. I've noticed that too. Do you know what's horrible? I hardly ever remember to bring a bottle with me when I'm a guest. I guess I'm not empty handed though as I bring bread. Oh we'd be a mess in the dead of winter when you're stuck in your wool pants and I'm in my flock of sheep massive wool sweater. prosecco is dangerous because it lets you drink far more than you should!

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  6. I picture you in the kitchen giving everyone your Martha-Stewart-Dagger-Eyes... but love that you easily forgive your sister.

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    1. Haha! Funny you should mention MSDE, I think I'm going to post about that next!

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  7. I can't believe how alike we are in so many ways! I am a solo act, too....that is why I like to do everything that I possibly can ahead of time. I don't want you bringing an appetizer that you just need to "throw together -do you have a bowl and a knife and a serving spoon"...I like order in my kitchen. I have lists of times things go into the oven, on the stove, in the freezer-you name it. I want everyone OUT of the kitchen when I put the finishing touches on things. People don't know this because I am nice to them but my mind is thinking--please leave---please go talk to weird uncle Mike or compliment Aunt Alice on her nice new bosoms.

    As for wine- I call my brother-in-law and ask him what to get- he knows them ALL. My kids like Two Buck Chuck from Trader Joe's although it is not THREE BUCKS...lol Real connoisseurs they are!

    Have a happy prep! xo Diana

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    1. Hahaha it's always nice to notice when aunt Alice gets a boob upgrade! Oh that's the worst! When I bring food, I always have everything down to the butter knives. It makes it so much easier as a guest, too. No awkward rummaging through the host's kitchen.

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  8. My sister and I can work absolutely hand in glove in the kitchen, finishing each other's sentences and worrying about the roasting brussels sprouts at exactly the same time. Have access to some pretty amazing wines, so, no need for help there.

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    1. Oh how wonderful! Siblings are a most wonderful asset. Please share which wines you serve! I love to hear opinions on what pairs best with Thanksgiving fare.

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  9. oh i don't work well with others in my kitchen. i'm that person that has everything done before the guests arrive. i could not imagine putting anyone to work - unless they wanted to go outside and pull some weeds. i don't like going to peoples homes and watch them run around like a chicken with their heads cut off. it makes me nervous. someone famous said the best thing a hostess could do was answer the door in their bathrobe, that puts everyone at ease. really? omg. i'd die. who said that, i can't remember. can't wait to see what you have to say about dagger eyes because they do work right?! xo

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    1. Oh that is a brilliant tip! Haha I would do that. Would have to change before I had too much wine though. It makes me nervous too. Not that I don't have those moments myself though. But I am known to come in and take over when things are in disarray. I think it's an inappropriate act of sympathy because I know the feeling. Then I ask myself how pissed would I be if someone did that in my kitchen?! I struggle with hypocrisy I suppose.

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  10. Hey Stephen,Ramona looks like she's having a very good time. I think i could spend an evening with Ramona and Sandy. Dance 'til you drop.
    But really i don't have a glass of wine until the dinner is being served, that way the food is still delicious.
    Bernaadette

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    1. Oh that's discipline! I don't have a glass of wine until I've finished all my chopping :) after that, let it flow.

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  11. Stephen, I have such admiration for your talents. I am an only child now since my brother's passing over 20 years ago, but I have to admit, I do not like having other people in my teeny kitchen. Especially the dreaded mother-in-law. Family, the other 'F' word.

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    1. Oh Karen thank you so much. When I read through your entire blog two years ago, I was so touched by your posts about your family and the person you are. I hope your kitchen has a lovely garden view!

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    2. I think you may well be the only person who has ever read my entire blog, Stephen. I am completely humbled, thank you.

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  12. Thank you for writing this series of blogposts on entertaining. I have laughed and smiled and probably even said something aloud which led the teen to say: " you know he can't see or hear you mum". That made me laugh even more. Den xxx
    Ps my iPad has been temperamental and hasswallowedup the previous 25 attempts at commenting so if this fails, I'm giving up! Think I was guilty of TMI!!!

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    1. Thank you so much! My iPad has been acting up lately too. Figures as a new one is about to be released :)

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  13. Oh, this post makes me feel less crazy. Or at least crazy in good company.

    Would a baby gate around the kitchen be too much? Your motto stitched on a sampler? Asking for a friend.

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    1. Not at all! I've always said my dream kitchen includes a banquette for guests to sit and enjoy appetizers. Once they're seated, I'd have zoo gates on a remote control that would come up and entrap them to keep them out of my way.

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  14. I tell them NOTHING!Hopefully they will bring wine......But we have plenty if they don't.I have only had a few people NOT bring wine in the past.I tell them it's their day off so when we get invited to their house I get the night off!However, I think you are speaking specifically about THANKS GIVING...........we are a small group just family!This year I may pass out Ellie's recipe and have each SON par-take and make something on their own!Could be a challenge.......any ADVISE There?I loved her THANKS GIVING recipe book.........YOU donot need it BUT I did!!!!Best Turkey DINNER EVER!

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