Every year you have the same holiday dinners. Turkey for this, ham for that. An odd crown roast or duck and maybe cedar plank fish if you have a house in the country. You like the same side dishes to go with these main proteins. With some meals a mixture of sweet and savory gracing the table is important, but sometimes it's all about the salt. Certain holidays are about being American and then there are the ones that remind you of the culture in which you grew up or flavors your grandmother introduced you to.
Each cavity stuffed with a different set of aromatics.
You're married or belong to a community or every year you go to a different house for these holidays. Every year is basically the same, except that everyone's a little older, or every other you do what your partner wants. Sometimes you volunteer at your local synagogue or church or soup kitchen and make more food than you thought possible. When you sit down to eat after these days your exhaustion is deeply soul-satisfied with a varied plate of food you let yourself (finally) eat and enjoy.
During the year you make dinner parties or bring what the host asks you to make. You shop at the farmers' market differently for these special nights. You pull out your favorite cookbooks and try a new recipe or finesse a favorite from the tried-and-true box. You proudly unfurl your food and wait nervously for people to dig in, hoping beyond hope that what you've made will pass muster and maybe at the end of the night someone asks you for your recipe. You go home feeling warm and full in ways you generally don't after dinner at home.
One day you realize you sorely miss a particular holiday dinner you went to year after year. It was German affair complete with goose, red cabbage with chestnuts, a most exquisitely rich pan gravy, lebkuchen and bite-sized marzipan shapes from Berlin. The person who you went with has died, and now every year, at the same time, you miss that goose. Even though you didn't grow up with anyone who ever cooked a goose.
Cookiecrumb and Cranky's bright and tangy sauerkraut crockpot.
Prepping the innards for gravy. (The goose is dense and rich and the gravy begs to be drunk from a glass!)
You have a food blog, or you date someone who has one. You used to cook professionally, or are going to culinary school, or are a professional food writer, or you live in a house the size of a private airplane hanger because you're the most amazing photographer, or you're a meat cooking expert or you have a wine cellar or you're not working right now. You organize a goose making dinner because you realize, in order to satiate this goose-eating-taste-bud appendage you've acquired and now must acknowledge, albeit late in life, you must learn how to cook said animal yourself.
Jessica Wilson taking the temperature of the geese.
You start talking about the possibility of a German Holiday Feast near actual holidays to your food blogging friends. You plant the seed.
A brilliant idea comes to you one night late. February! It's the perfect time for such a dinner. Although you won't get your geese warm from a fresh slaughter as you might near Christmas, you're told all your Bay Area options for goose buying. You're not working much or you're in need of organizing a grand food event. You've recently been to a number of massive community food gathering undertakings for which you only showed up as a guest and now it's your time to kick it into gear. You go to you local meat expert, fellow blogger, someone you refer to sweetly as your personal Meat Angel. You know he's the person to make your first goose with.
You channel the most organized, bossy side of you. You want to eat what you want. You make a list, asking for people to choose from a list and "call" a dish. It reads: "spaetzle, red cabbage with chestnuts, a green salad (for me what constitutes a salad, in, Feb. is head lettuce, cucumbers and radishes), baked potatoes, something sauerkrauty, steamed broccoli or greens or squash something, raw celery root something, something leeky, cranberry sauce/chutney something, chocolate, marzipan tinted dessert and Marc, can you make that Orange Cake?"
Paul Hendry carving with Guy's lucky carving knife.
At the last minute you have to change locations. People you've never met offer their industrial palatial estate. In between dinner and dessert one of the hosts, a distinguished professional photographer, takes portaits of all the guests! The kitchen crew of three gets shot jumping in the air. (All photos from the session will be made public shortly; link will be posted on Eggbeater.)
Marc's orange cakes & caramel sauce plated with David & Shuna's gianduja pot de creme.
"The Kitchen Crew" Jessica Wilson, David Byron, and Shuna Lydon (not pictured) at the head of the table happily eating dessert.
Even though the event tires you out you would do it again. Twenty-four people gather, make the seasonal side dishes you were craving, and bring wine and beverages from all over the map. You make new friends, have a number of inspiring conversations, banter and laugh, navigating a foreign kitchen, and everyone eats the German Holiday Feast of your making, from your heart and imaginings.