Happy New Year! May 2012 be filled with love, happiness, good health, good food, good friends and prosperity.
And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give us a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.
–Auld Lang Syne, Robert Burns
I have always loved traditions, and I am so fortunate to have a very special New Year’s Eve tradition: Dinner with the same two couples every year since the early 1990s. In a world where so much has changed, six friends have kept a commitment to spend New Year’s Eve together for eighteen years, give or take a couple here and there. We could be an HBO series about stable, married people, if there was ever a market for such a thing.
Back in his grad school days, Ed had the good sense to befriend a couple guys who married women I truly liked as real friends, not just husband friends. When it comes to friendship, I am more of a cat than a dog. I usually don’t instantly love everyone I meet. (Ed, on the other hand, is a dog, a friendly Golden Retriever, happy and loving to all. I am a scrappy stray cat who thinks she belongs on a Fancy Feast commercial). It’s not you, it’s me, and simply my reserved nature which I’ve come to accept it over the years. No hard feelings.
So while I may not have tons and tons of friends, I fiercely treasure the friends I have. Like my mother, I am loyal to those I love, and loyal people have friends for life. The funny thing about my NYE friends is that we really don’t see each other all that much throughout the year. Lunch and a party or two, but definitely not weekly or even monthly. However, I know I could call or text either one of them at any time, and they would be there for me in a heartbeat. They are both prettier, smarter, thinner, better mothers and better human beings than me, but instead of feeling threatened and perhaps a wee bit bitchy like I normally would with anyone else, I only feel admiration instead. If that’s not true friendship, I don’t know what is. Just being around them a few times a year rubs off some goodness by osmosis, and then I’m set for the next few months.
As you can imagine, we have shared some memorable meals over the years. My friends always set the bar high, so it’s a little harrowing whenever it is our turn to host. For the second (third?) time, I will be playing the sushi and appetizer card. We all enjoy sushi, and who doesn’t love a meal comprised entirely of appetizers? If I ply everyone with enough wine and limoncello, I might once again convince them to play my favorite game, Balderdash. We will talk about our children and our parents and our jobs (and my lack of a real job) and our household projects and kids today. We will forget for a few minutes we have nine children between the six of us, three a piece, and reminisce about the good old days when we were young and just starting out our lives. We will eat too much and drink too much and vow to see each other more often next year, and then I will go to bed overwhelmed, once again, by my good fortune to be surrounded by such wonderful people on the last day of another good year.
Even if we are occupied with important things and even if we attain honor or fall into misfortune, still let us remember how good it once was here, when we were all together, united by a good and kind feeling which made us perhaps better than we are. – Fyodor Dostovevsky
To all of those I call my friend, thank you.
Edited Jan 1, 2012:
As always, we had a wonderful night of laughter and friendship. I nodded off for a few minutes between 11 and 12 (surprising absolutely no one who knows me), but I was awake in time to ring in the New Year.
My friends make the best fondue I have ever tasted, and we demand it each and every year. Lucky for you, they left behind the recipe. I know fondue recipes are a dime a dozen, but I cannot speak highly enough about this fondue. Seriously, THE best, ever. There is no better end to a good year than dipping things in cheese.
Classic Cheese Fondue by Ryan Hardy, Food & Wine
- 1 pound Gruyère cheese, coarsely shredded
- 1/2 pound Emmentaler cheese, coarsely shredded
- 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 tablespoon Kirsch
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper
- Crusty bread cubes, hard salami and small dill pickles, for serving.
- In a bowl, toss the Gruyère and Emmentaler with the cornstarch. Rub the inside of a cheese fondue pot or medium, enameled cast-iron casserole with the garlic, then add the wine and bring to a simmer. Add the cheese mixture all at once. Using a wooden spoon, stir over moderately low heat just until the cheese is melted and smooth, about 5 minutes. Stir in the Kirsch and season with salt and pepper. Serve with the bread, salami and pickles.