Let’s talk about the reason for the season. And let’s go back. Let’s go way, way, way back. All winter solstice holidays are effectively the same. You know why? Well, take a long hard look at the season itself. It’s dark. It’s cold. It’s depressing.
So, let’s gather with people who we trust, light some lights, and eat a festive meal.
Huzzah! Problem solved. Except for the part that more often than not, those people who you trust tend to be the exact people who make you crazy. They’re not going to kill you, so that’s good. But they’ll probably drive you to drink.
The FLB has been oddly silent on the subject of cocktails lately. But there are a few things that have been percolating recently, which may all come together in today’s post. Then again, maybe they won’t.
But let’s start with family.
Only a very small handful of people may have noticed the FLB change over the years. Readers come and readers go. And even those of you who have been around from the very beginning may not have been hyper analyzing the blog’s daily tone and content.
In the beginning, I was clearly an outsider, keeping an arm’s breadth away from those behind the scenes. But then I realized (with help from some commenters) that our local chefs weren’t the problem. And that began the process of reaching out to chefs directly and building closer relationships with the local culinary community.
One chef that I’m particularly fond of is Josh Coletto. He’s part of the Chefs’ Consortium, and when I first interviewed him at The Flying Chicken, it was clear that we shared many similar notions about what makes food good.
These days he’s mostly working at Local 111 in Philmont, but he does come back to Albany once a month to cook brunch at The Low Beat. Josh and I have worked out a little deal. He’s agreed to share some of his recipes with readers of the FLB, and I’ve agreed to remind people to check out this monthly labor of love.
Here’s what he has to say about this recipe from last month’s menu:
For some people this is a confusing time of the year. Today is officially the first day of Chanukah. But yesterday was the first night. Which means that even though today is the first day of the festival, tonight is the second night.
Got it? Good. These are just some of the hijinks we get by subscribing to a lunar calendar.
Yesterday included the traditional holiday tradition where I run around frantically trying to buy presents for the kids. This is one of those great moments to be Jewish. Even though there are plenty of people who find themselves in the same predicament, we’re such a small population that it’s nothing even close to the crush of last minute shoppers the day before Christmas.
The other lucky thing is that we don’t have to gather for a big festive meal any night of the holiday. Which isn’t to say there aren’t holiday foods. My temple has a great latke fest and I’m looking forward to eating the food of my people with the people of my people.
All I wanted last night was a taste of the holiday. And I’m a little ashamed about how I got it.
Airplane food used to be a tired joke. Dry and and flavorless pieces of chicken breast were served on mushy rice with overcooked vegetables and some kind of salty creamy sauce. The food was mostly terrible to be sure. But at least the airline fed its passengers something resembling food on a multi-hour flight.
The food loving flyer always had clever ways around the crap food. Vegetarian meals were often solid. Hindu meals rocked. I had some great indian bean dishes and even discovered Amy’s veggie loaf for the first time on a plane. Actually, that last in-flight meal was the best preparation of the frozen convenience dish I ever ate.
These days you may have to fly internationally to actually be fed. And hopefully the airline packed enough meals for all those who want them. I recall one flight being totally out of food by the time they got to my seat towards the back of the cabin.
Usually, I’ll eat before or after a flight. Occasionally, I’ll bring something on board. But on my latest journey, I wasn’t expecting to be stuck in the plane waiting for the plows to dig us out, and then waiting even longer in the de-icing queue. By the time the flight attendants were selling snacks, I was famished. I needed food.
As it would turn out, food on a plane is mighty hard to find.
Today, I’m flying back home. I’m actually posting right now from the Chicago airport. Breakfast was a bag of Garrett’s popcorn mix. For those who don’t know, that’s half cheesecorn and half caramelcrisp.
Popcorn must have more nutrition than a bagel. But I suppose when it stains your fingers orange and sticks to your teeth, you may have to reconsider its health benefits.
For the past few days I’ve been traveling. I’ve also been at war with the internet. It hasn’t been cooperating, and as a result, I was left with no other option than to write posts on my phone. Needless to say, they didn’t quite rise up to the standard that’s been set at the FLB for the past several years.
The story I’ve been dying to share is the one where I tell what I ultimately brought from Albany to share with my friends.
Vacations are fun.
Even when the lights go out.
Where are the towels?
In what can only be described as a comedy of errors, the power went out at the hotel this morning. Yes, i was in the shower at the time. That was interesting. All of a sudden I was a lot happier about my second floor room.
The good news is that power was restored.
The bad news is that the Internet is still out.
But fear not, I still have something that I hope you’ll find interesting that I can post from my phone. Please parson the typos.