Around the holidays people are very tied to their traditions. My New Year’s Eve tradition has typically been serving semi-formally dressed couples prix fixe menus all night, sweating profusely as I get my ass kicked around a restaurant, chugging as much to drink as I can after my shift (thank you Chambong for making the process easier and more enjoyable), and then going home around 3 a.m. with the spins. As you could imagine, I find much relief when the eve is over and a new year has begun. This day I find myself at a bottomless mimosa brunch with friends, then a calm and comforting meal at my parent’s house.
Traditions are good. Even if life is crazy and everything around you has changed, a tradition is something you can hold on to, it’s reliable. I like to think of holiday traditions as a warm pillow to rest your head, and out of all of the holidays, New Year’s day is my warmest pillow.
My mother is German and my Father is Italian, but due to Germany’s not so proud history, and because Italians are typically louder and pushier people, we embrace our Italian heritage to the max.
We start our first dinner in the New Year with a lentil and pancetta soup by Marcella Hazan, the Italian grandma you wish you had. Her book “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking” is the closest thing that my family owns to a bible. The soup is soul satisfying; salty and savory, complex in it’s flavors and textures, and as I mentioned above, there is pancetta in it, so really, what else do you need in life?
In the Italian tradition, people consume lentils on the New Year as a sign of wealth and prosperity for the year to come. The lentils, small and circular, represent coins and eating them prepares you for the year ahead with hope of a little extra clink in your pockets. And who couldn’t use a little bit of that?
This tradition is as pure as it comes: sitting around a table with my favorite people in the world, eating a humble soup dish, tearing apart crusty bread to ensure every bit is savored, and we state our intentions for the new year. No need to hope for fame or fortune, on this day, we hope just to cling on to each other a little longer.
Happy New Year to you all, I look forward to eating and drinking with you in 2017. Ciao, Cheers, Salute, or as my family says: Cent Anni!