Saturday, January 1, 2011

Days of Feasts

Happy Feast of the Circumcision everybody! That's what was on the medieval liturgical calendar anyway. In the Middle Ages, there'd been revelry since at least December 6 (Saint Nicholas Day), often since November 11 (Saint Martin's Day) - had to do something to stave off those winter months.  The Roman Saturnalia rituals had never really left entirely (and of course are commemorated every time a Christmas tree is decorated), but there's one Roman tradition to talk about that had a cool revival in the Middle Ages and has since fallen away today.  The ├ętrennes were the gifts and gift exchanges of New Year's Day, self-consciously revived by the Valois court, as Brigitte Buettner's gorgeous article "Past Presents: New Year's Gifts at the Valois Court c. 1400" (Art Bulletin 83:4 (Dec. 2001): 589-625) will tell you.  While the Valois practiced their "vello-mania" (another great phrase of hers from another great article) we reveled in deep friendships and fantastic culinary feats.

Dear Alison made one of her phenomenal brunches - everything is made from scratch and I really do think of a medieval kitchen and the warmth of a hearth. Plus, it's a pleasure to watch the kids devour everything in sight.  This time last year, we were having our first bites, our first realizations of distance, our first outings. I realize that I could relive last year almost day by day - a daunting opportunity for nostalgia.  No need - I think of Brittany every single day anyway.  It's amazing, really, how many comings and goings there are in these cozy, settled days: Mallory is getting ready to go back to college, Grandmama will be taking off... thank goodness for the home-made cinnamon buns, the company, the warmth...

And then St. Sylvester's (New Year's Eve!) at Pedar and Rebecca's. The menu, without further ado:
  • Edamame mousse on rice crackers
  • Carrot blinis with creme fraiche and caviar
  • Cheeses: Tome de Savoie, Morbier, Iberico
  • Celeriac soup with thyme croutons
  • Herb-Encrusted Beef Tenderloin
  • Gratin Dauphinois
  • Broccolini with an herbed oil
  • These gorgeous tarts!
And so a happy new year was had by all.  The kids actually stayed up until midnight, and were for the first time excited at the change from 2010 to 2011 - some wonderfully meaningless event that is a thrillingly meaningful moment.  They're starting to stir now, so there's no time to write, but that's ok - there's a momentum to everything now: a week from today, we leave for Israel!

And herein lies my hope for all of us this year: belonging and understanding and anticipating - something this picture of the girls seems to have captured for just a moment.


  1. Wow! To say we are envious and would have loved to join you is an understatement - and yet perfectly captures my emotions. Monday we will see you - thanks again.
    Love, J

  2. Believe me when I tell you that Rebecca and I were plotting how we might pull this off the three of us next year! Can't wait to see you - soon soon, now!

  3. Fantastic food! Fun fun fun. Thanks so so much for --I'm looking forward to it! (I'm wondering whether it might work in an animal-centric fairy tale or literature course). New Years Greetings to All!
    Love, Cathie

  4. Hi dear friend! What better things to ring in the new year than food and reading, eh? Here's to seeing each other this year, too!