Four or five years ago, Tony and I started holding a New Year’s Day party. We can’t remember exactly when it began; we could chalk it up to Ben’s birth and a sleep-deprived reluctance to stay out late on New Year’s Eve, but in fact we’d never been big NYE revellers. It used to be a work night for Tony, back when he ran light shows at dance parties, and he’s more than had his fill of drunken party-goers. Meanwhile, my most memorable New Year’s Eves had involved arguing with my old boyfriend while we searched Manhattan fruitlessly for the kind of unrealistically glamorous party you see in When Harry Met Sally.
So Tony and I hunker down. Pre-Ben, we’d have people over for a fancy New Year’s Eve dinner. One fabulous year, we were in Williamsburg visiting friends. We drank a 1990 Dom Perignon (one of their wedding gifts) and ate homemade napoleon, then stayed up very late watching an Iron Chef marathon.
And now we host a New Year’s Day open house. We make a ton of food and invite all our friends and their increasing numbers of kids. Often we are still jet lagged from our Christmas visit east, but we still hold the party. We’ve carried on when Ben was recovering from pneumonia and also when we’d only been back in our house, post-renovation, for three days and didn’t really know where the serving dishes were. One year, New Year’s Day brought a huge rainstorm, and my Dad, proud New Englander that he is, watched admiringly as the water rushed down the street, rising high enough to float a canoe.
This year, I started some of the New Year’s cooking before we left for Christmas, putting the dough for pistachio-cranberry cookies and cheddar crackers in the freezer. I’ve baked those (the crackers aren’t worth the effort, fyi) and also made brownies, banana-coconut muffins and addictive parmesan-black pepper biscotti (to make up for the lame crackers). We’ll make strata (for which I no longer follow a recipe, sorry), and Tony’s mini stuffed peppers and shitake mushroom dumplings (two things he’s made up, but I’ll work on him to write down the recipes), and maybe some gougeres and polenta bites. There’ll be candied peel (some plain, some dipped in chocolate) and satsumas and sweet potato fries and lots of different things to drink.
One year toward the end of the party, a friend noticed me rummaging in the pantry for something else to serve. “You know, Caroline,” she said, “If you stop putting out food, we’ll all go home.” But of course, as she well knew, that’s not the idea at all! I can’t think of a finer way to ring in the new year than by gathering up as many good friends as possible and feeding them well. And to those of you who can’t be with us, may the new year bring you peace, happiness, and many good things to eat.