Life came at us like a Roman chariot race this year, and what a year it was. Craig’s movie The Skeleton Twins premiered at Sundance in January, and since then it’s taken us all around the world–me as far as Edinburgh and Berlin, Craig as far as Hong Kong–and even now our lives still feel like they’re moving at warp speed. That said, I always enjoy these moments in December when I can look back on the year that was and soak it all in. Normally, I do a ranking of the Best Things That I Cooked and The Best Things That I Ate, but this year I’m just choosing ten of my favorite food moments (chronologically). Let’s get to it.
If you’ve given me a hug over the past few weeks, there’s a good chance you got a whiff of onion and potato and secretly said to yourself: “He smells like a Jewish grandma.” That’s because, since early December, I’ve become a one-man latke factory. It started when I read this post by Kim Severson all about making latkes ahead. Apparently, they freeze very well. Then I read a similar piece on Bon Appetit about making 400 latkes for a latke party. The strategy was the same: make them ahead, freeze them, then bake them for 20 minutes right before serving. Which is how I found myself inviting friends over for a latke party on the first night of Hanukkah and making 300 latkes to serve at said latke party.
We got a tree, a Christmas tree, and it’s my first one–Rabbi Schlomo, plug your ears–and it’s making our apartment seem so festive. Somehow I thought getting a tree would be a big ordeal: with the lights and the stand and the balls and the baubles. But, actually, it was a totally easy process. On the advice of my friend John, we went to the Target in Eagle Rock where we stocked up on all the tree necessities (a tree skirt, to attract male trees; lights, balls, etc.) and then we bought a tree right outside at a pop-up tree farm. The tree came on a stand so we just carried it through the door, stood it up, and started wiring the lights. Voila. Now all we had to do was to have people over to enjoy the tree, which is why I spent some time figuring out the perfect December menu.
Loyal Amateur Gourmet readers, it’s time to come clean: I’ve been a bad blogger lately. It’s been a busy time for me here in L.A. but the hard part is that I really can’t get into why it’s so busy, just trust me that I haven’t really had time to devote to the blog. Can you forgive me? What if I share a bunch of really good things that I’ve cooked/eaten recently, will that make things better? OK, let’s try that. In random order….
Maybe this is a weird thing to be proud of, but I didn’t write any lead-up to Thanksgiving post this year and it felt really nice. So much of the writing about Thanksgiving is unnecessary: seriously, anything you need to know about turkey or cranberry sauce or stuffing has already been written. The fact that it’s a “new spin” on whatever is really just an opportunity to get you to click, buy, forward, ReTweet, etc. So I avoided all that and then went to Boca Raton, Florida where my family lives and where I promptly fell ill with a mini-flu—chills, sweats, the works–and laid on the couch while my mom got me chicken soup from Too-Jay’s to supplement the bagels and rainbow cookies from Way Beyond Bagels. As for Thanksgiving dinner, it was a simple one this year, and that was a good thing. Mom brought in food that I helped heat up and everyone was happy; Thanksgiving really isn’t about reinventing the wheel, it’s about hitting the marks. This meal did that and my plate shows you what you want to see: the turkey, the stuffing (cornbread-based), mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, and vegetables that I infused with a little garlic and olive oil (OK, I didn’t just heat everything up). Here’s our whole family in one picture that my dad arranged with a timer:
In the top row that’s me, Craig, my uncle Mark, yet another Craig Johnson (my sis-in-law’s dad!), my dad, my mom, my brother, his wife Tali, their dog Lulu, Tali’s mom Gila, then moving left my grandfather, my grandmother, and my aunt Ellen. Despite my illness, it was a lovely Thanksgiving and way more fun to talk about after the fact! Hope yours was great too.