We’re in the lull between holiday celebrations. Our two-part Christmas – Christmas Day dinner with BD’s brother and family, and my family get-together a couple of days later – are done. I’ve baked a lot, eaten far too much, and played a marathon men-against-women game of Trivial Pursuit (we women won, finally.)
On New Year’s Day we’ll host a lunch. This used to be an annual occurrence, until we started travelling over the two-week Christmas holiday to places like India and China (and Antarctica, once) and so were no longer at home on New Year’s Day. Now we’re retired, the winter travel will take place in January and February, so we’re having the lunch again.
It’s a pretty simple affair. Jeans and sweaters meet the suggested dress code. After the excesses of the last couple of weeks, we try to keep both food and drink to some basics: hot spiced cider, soft drinks, a glass of wine for a toast. I’m making little tart-sized quiches and sausage rolls; there will be smoked salmon, hummus, cheeses and paté, along with crostini and crackers and fresh baguettes. Crudités, olives, pickles, and roasted red pepper and eggplant will round it out. Served buffet style, the twenty or so people attending will eat in small groups scattered around the house: we’ve chairs a-plenty. Dessert will be raspberry-ginger cake served with coffee or tea. Nor am I cooking all this: friends and family are bringing parts of it.
Yesterday BD and I got the wine glasses down and ran them through the gentle cycle of the dishwasher: this set hasn’t been used in a few years, and were very dusty. Some of the plates got the same treatment. It shocks me slightly that I gave away our ‘banquet set’ for twenty-four last year, and yet we still have enough plates – dinner, lunch, and dessert – , as well as glassware, mugs and cutlery to accommodate twenty people. Not that they match, but who cares? But if we want to keep doing these annual lunches, I guess I’ll have to keep them. I abhor the idea of disposables. The other alternative, which we used to do for pot-lucks at work, is to ask everyone to bring their own. I’ll have to give that serious consideration another year.
Guests will start to arrive about 12:30 p.m. With luck, the first man through the door will be dark-haired – an old Scottish tradition called ‘first-footing’ gives good luck to the house and its inhabitants if the first man who enters on New Year’s Day is dark. We’ll serve drinks, talk, exchange Christmas stories, laugh, until about 2, when we’ll eat; by five at the latest, folks will have left, leaving us plenty of time to run the dishwasher, nibble on left-overs, and tidy up.
We used to do evening parties: for years I hosted our work Christmas dinner: roast turkey and all the trimmings for nearly thirty people. Then we did the New Year’s lunch as a sit-down meal, which involved renting tables and chairs and big white tablecloths and rearranging the furniture a bit. As I get older, the parties get simpler, and I’m happy for people to bring food or drink. Everyone enjoys it just as much…or perhaps more.