I admit to being sentimental, but I'm not much of a traditionalist. If someone else is going to the bother of doing the same thing year after year, I'm happy to participate. Especially if it's not too much of a hassle. If, say, a 7-foot Balsam fir were to magically appear in my living room and all of the carefully wrapped ornaments were to unpack themselves, then sure, I'd be all over decorating the Christmas tree. But as it is, the nuisance of maintaining traditions generally overpowers my desire for consistency. Hence the 2-foot fake tree aglow in our living room right now.
That's why it's all the more surprising that, come each January 1st, I freely and enthusiastically invite everyone in our address book to come over and spend the first day of the year in our home, nursing their hangovers on a non-stop conveyor belt of homemade food. It's not even my tradition to perpetuate - The Admiral's been hosting New Year's Day feasts since his college dorm days - but it's one I've gotten very attached to. In the past, I've usually spent the day chasing down dirty dishes, refilling wine glasses, and keeping the CD player spinning. But this year, I fired up the iPod playlist and spent all that extra non-dj-ing time breaking into the sacred realm of the kitchen. I stuck with my old stand-bys like sundried tomato-and-artichoke dip, plus the perpetually crowd-pleasing gouda ball. But then I also decided to branch out and try one of our traditional family recipes for the very first time. And, well, that was an error. I so wanted the stromboli to work out, since it's one of my favorites from my own childhood holidays, but it just didn't quite come together. Literally. The damn things exploded on me, and I panicked and took them out before the bread dough was fully cooked and ended up serving our guests some pretty sad, gooey versions of my mother's prize recipe.
But oh well. I think the artichoke dip and gouda ball and parmesan toast and crab dip and black-eyed pea soup and clams and beef tenderloin and homemade ice cream made up for it. And even if they didn't, the edibles are just accessories. The real point of the day is to pull all these people together, all the friends who have shared the last year with us and with whom we plan to spend many days to come, and to show them, in our own quiet Midwestern food-forcing way, how much they mean to us. It's a chance for us (okay, me) to come out of our shells a teence and show appreciation for the support and kindness that have been shown to us all year long. It's an excuse for me to hug my friends. So even with the undercooked stromboli and the mid-party conversion from iPod audio to a kid-friendly movie selection, it was still a roaring success, because every person in our house was someone we love. And hopefully, they all left knowing that. Or at least feeling very, very full. Which, to my people, is the same thing.