For Christmas, my Canadian daughter gave me a copy of The Best American Food Writing 2018. You may know the Best American series—volumes of short stories, essays, mystery stories, travel writing, and so on. 2018 was the first year the editors recognized the importance of food writing—way over and above cookbooks—in our culture. So far, my eyes are opened wide just reading the introduction by famed food editor Ruth Reichl, one of my heroes. It was a folklorist, not a historian, wrote several years ago: “The foods we eat, the way we eat them, and the imagination we bestow on their preparation will tell much about us to historians, folklorists, and anthropologists of Buck Roger’s twenty-fifth century,” (If our planet lasts that long.)
I’ve been having my own mini-food culture the last few days, and I hope it’s an omen for the new year. I also hope it tells a good story about me. Saturday night I pan-fried a filet of ruby red trout with seasoned breadcrumbs and finished it with lemon butter. Delicious—but as usual I overestimated when I placed my online order, and I had another filet left. I cooked it yesterday and flaked it into a cream cheese mixture today to serve as an appetizer tonight. Trout is so delicate, I’m afraid I may have overwhelmed it with cream cheese. I let it sit in the fridge to “collect itself.”
Sunday night, Jordan and I decided to serve the bison kielbasa we’d brought home from our road trip, and I made German potato salad—one of Christian’s very favorite foods. I usually use canned and sliced potatoes (lazy of me) but they don’t carry them at Central Market, so I planned ahead and cooked the potatoes Saturday. After chilling in the fridge, they sliced easily and held their shape instead of crumbling as warm potatoes will do.
Last night friends and I went to the Tavern. I never get there on Monday night when meatloaf is the special, so I was delighted. While my companions dined on healthy salads, I had meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and sautéed spinach—that alone should tell you a lot about me. Today I had a wonderful lunch of cold meatloaf and German potato salad.
If what you eat and do on New Year’s Eve is predictive of the coming year, I have a definite preference: a quiet early supper with a friend or two, a meal slightly elegant (a notch up from comfort food), and no watching the new year in. So tonight good friend Jean came for an early supper. We had my trout spread for an appetizer—she put a hearty stamp of approval on it—and Coquilles Saint Jacques (scallops and mushrooms in a cream sauce with a gruyere/crumb topping)—rich and good. For dessert I offered Jean a choice of homemade toffee or fudge dipped in dark chocolate (nobody should have to make such a choice)—she chose toffee, and we toasted the New Year with a New Mexico champagne that she had brought. We talked of “cabbages and kings and many things” in a nice long, comfortable visit. Jean’s husband is terminally ill and in a care facility; we share a church and many friends and a history at TCU; we are sympathetic in our world views. There’s a never a lack of things to talk about, and I found it easy and encouraging to welcome the new year in with this good friend.
Of course, we didn’t really welcome the new year. As I write this, it is ten o’clock. By midnight I plan to be sound asleep. But it already feels like 2020. I think it will be a good year. My prayer for all of us is that 2020 brings sanity to our country and our government. Peace across the world would be wonderful, but it’s probably a long shot.
And for each of you, my wish is that 2020 brings you what you most want and whatever you need. Let us all make it a year of caring for each other, a year of sharing the love. Peace and sweet dreams, my friends.