The holidays were lovely.  Christmas Eve (despite the Packers winning which tends to dampen the spirits of everyone except my son-in-law Joe from Green Bay) we drank mulled cider with cranberries and ginger brandy out by a roaring bonfire.  Later we came in to our traditional Christmas Eve cioppino, one of my favorite dishes  flavored with fennel bulb, tarragon, basil and ouzo (my not being able to find Pernod in Newberry), washed down with fine bottles of La Crema chardonnay or Pinot Noir–either a nice compliment to the stew which also consists of chorizo, salmon or whitefish, shrimp, scallops and mussels, sometimes topped with a lobster claw if I can find one.  Being half English, Christmas day is always prime rib and Yorkshire pudding, though I do popovers now with goat cheese, rosemary and thyme since they are so much more dependable in the pan.  (My talented daughter Hilary’s photos above attest to my success.)

I’ve cleaned up and put away the decorations, untrimmed the tree, of course, I’m not one to tarry in the old year, but I couldn’t help but reflect on the bounty of it all as I work on my wood fire cookbook memoir.  I was writing about how Euell Gibbons foraged for dandelions, persimmons, wild asparagus, groundnuts, cattails, catnip tea, puffball mushrooms…  I was noting that Gibbons had once said that a tea made from pine needles contained more vitamin C than lemon water (I’ll never want for C).  And though I have eaten puffballs and shaggy mane mushrooms each once (they left me feeling off and the consistency wasn’t wonderful), and though I forage for morels (those left me feeling addicted and  wildly giddy), wild blueberries, fish for brook trout–most of which are true delicacies that grace our table on occasion, I am interested in recording the culmination of years of family cooking and the adapted wood fire and grilling recipes that seemed to form who we have become.  I was thinking about how even though we love the challenge of “roughing it” living off the grid, part of the fun is seeing how well one might eat, how one might appreciate certain (admittedly hedonistic) pleasures that seem,though in stark contrast, to connect a person even more to the land.

Happy New Year.