I started a tradition 14 years ago at our family country house. Back in 2003, David and I traveled to Italy and ate some of the best food we had ever tasted. I wanted to recreate my favourite meal from that trip on New Year’s Eve for my family. And so began a long-time tradition of me preparing an elaborate feast every December 31st.
There was only one small child in the family back in 2003, surrounded by a bunch of adults. I had also just babysat said child (my nephew) a few days before when he was sick and unable to go to daycare. By the time December 31st came around he was better and I was sick with a 103-degree fever.
But that didn’t stop me.
I prepared my Italian feast for my family, with creamy pesto pasta as the centrepiece. I slogged through it and took naps throughout the day.
It was worth it.
Since that day, as our extended family has grown from one child to eight, I have cooked a themed and extravagant New Year’s Eve meal at our country house every year (except December 31, 2016, when we were in Auckland, NZ). I have made some crazy meals, like “Pie in the Sky,” “Cheesy New Year’s Eve” and “Everything layered.” I went international a couple of other times, like a tour through China or Japan. A couple of years ago I chose some of my favourite dishes from the TV show Diners Drive-ins and Dives. That was a crazy night.
For December 31, 2017, I had to change it up just a bit again and went with another kind of crazy theme: flashback to Bar Mitzvahs in the 1980’s. I had a grand plan when I first conceived the idea and scaled it back as New Year’s Eve neared. Would people still own Bar Mitzvah outfits from the 1980’s? If they did, would they fit? Could my father compile a playlist of some of our favourite 1980’s music? Do I remember the kind of food we ate at Bar Mitzvahs back then?
My brother took care of the rockin’ playlist. My mother went deep into her closet and found some unique dresses (I fit into them but I will admit that the waist was too tight for comfort). And the food. Well that was easy.
Our extended family at our newly renovated country house (again, more on that in a future post) is a mighty sixteen people. Oh ya. My parents have three children. We are all married. My brother has two kids, my sister has three kids. And I of course have three. Oh, my sister’s dog always joins us, along with my sister’s in-laws’ dog too, who has moved in for the winter.
Do you remember what you ate thirty years ago? I do! As a child who went to many Bar Mitzvahs, I clearly recall eating a lot of chicken fingers and french fries. So that’s what I had for the kids (thanks to my sister, Darcie, who cooked the chicken).
And what was always on the centre of every kids’ table at these events? Candy, of course.
Every Bar Mitzvah (okay, weddings too), starts with a wide variety of appetizers. I ordered a huge tray of vegetarian sushi (my New Year’s resolution for 2018 is to learn how to make sushi) and also heated up egg rolls and knishes. In years past, before three children, I would have made those myself, but that was not to be this year. The group attacked the appetizers. And like any good Bar Mitzvah, the keeners hung out by the kitchen to be first to the hot hors d’oeuvres.
I also remembered seeing overcooked beef served to the adults. So, I pulled out my always handy Instant Pot and cooked the most luscious pot roast. I served it with polenta fries and a medley of roast vegetables.
The evening was topped off with a small sweet table (thanks to my mother), which included her famous “slutty brownies” (yes that’s what they are called), regular brownies and chocolate chip cookies. Oh, and I cut up a pineapple so that we could feel a bit healthy.
We snacked on dessert as we all watched our family’s favourite cult movie, The Money Pit. My sister convinced (blackmailed?) most of the crowd to put on these strange flannel one-sies, and we got comfortable on the couch and across the floor.
A few of us made our usual predictions for the coming year (sorry Toronto fans, I don’t see any of our favourite teams winning it all in 2018, well, maybe Toronto FC). Most of the crowd even stayed awake to watch the ball drop in New York City.
I love the Richler Family New Year’s Eve ruckus at our country home. As our family grows and we become louder and rowdier, I enjoy it even more. I don’t need a $200 dinner at a fancy restaurant or a big party at someone’s home. My crazy family, in the comfort of our cozy country house, with great food, is perfect for me.
Happy New Year. My best wishes to you for 2018.