The turn of the New Year is marked by media outlets doing the usual “Best of…” or “Top Stories of…” (fill in the previous year). They’re not so much to remind us of the year that is drawing to a close, but more to fill news holes during a quiet week when staffers are on holidays and the world, with the notable exceptions of tsunamis and assassinations, usually co-operates and stays relatively quiet and un-newsworthy.
In the food department, by contrast, we seldom remark on the details of last year’s comestibles, usually for good reason.
Ah, remember that fine platter of chicken thighs we grilled up on Uncle Chuck’s birthday June 11? Or the minestrone soup and Goldfish crackers we had for lunch March 4? No, the finer details of meals once enjoyed are like leftovers, best ruminated over soon after the original event, then left alone.
Other than the sharing of special treats or family traditions that we deem auspicious or at least fun at the turn of the New Year — a glass of bubbly, perhaps a taste of food that connotes good luck — the culturally-collective we seem to prefer looking ahead in the food department this time of year.
For one, we’re obsessed with the well-intended but usually hollow New Year’s resolutions to divest ourselves of extra poundage accumulated over the holidays and to lay the foundations for a new leaf turning over, under which we’ll presumably find healthier, much-improved selves: I resolve to eat no more carbs, no more second helpings, lots more organic, or whatever.
The other food-oriented topic that lingers over the start of the New Year like the smell of scented candles is how to gracefully use up holiday leftovers. There are the Christmas cake orphans, the baking still haunting the deep freeze, the dozens of garlic wings and mini-quiches nobody ate New Year’s Eve, the bits of ham and roast turkey still clinging to the bones that we swear we’ll make soup out of this year before they turn green.
Gone for the most part are the small, shared customs that arose from the kitchen, or at least from the housewives who once held court there. Like the small New Year’s hostess gifts — a new set of dishrags, a new pot scrubber — to kick-start a clean house. And the banging of pots and pans on the front steps New Year’s Eve to scare away bad luck and wake up the neighbours humbuggish enough to fall asleep before midnight. And the calendars that butchers and small corner store owners once gave to loyal customers that boasted 12 months of recipes and photos promising glamorous dishes any hostess could serve.