As 2017 draws to an end and we celebrate our traditional year-end holidays and then the New Year, I want to focus on the need to draw on our commonalities, rather than let our differences tear us apart. Back in 2010, when I was still living in Brooklyn, I wrote a blog on the importance of sharing traditions to bring us together. I am posting the blog again – enjoy!
The holidays are a time when entertaining should be considered more than just a yearly obligation – it can really make a difference now and all year long in showing you care enough to share your special seasonal recipes with your friends, family and even your clients. At my Brooklyn food coop, we held our Annual Meeting for our members during Hanukkah and ended it with a reception that included store made latkes from the deli, fresh apple sauce, and holiday cookies from a kosher bakery, along with our regular fresh fruit and vegetable platters and other organic staples. It was an opportunity to spread an appreciation of special recipes, along with goodwill and good cheer.
In Manhattan, event planner Pat Ahaesy and her husband Vince, partners in P&V Enterprises, host an annual Hanamas Party in the same spirit of sharing beloved recipes. The guests love tasting their selection of mixed Hanukkah and Christmas traditions that includes latkes and Swedish meatballs. One of their guests, another event planner, is a gospel singer in a Harlem church, who brings along her sister and some friends, and they are easily convinced to share a medley of beautiful gospel songs.
I now call sharing traditions with clients, as well as friends and family, The Hoppin’ John Agenda, after a southern holiday tradition that my late husband Tim and I started together– sharing a New Year’s Day feast of black-eyed peas and rice with greens that is called Hoppin’ John with friends and family in LA and San Francisco. This tradition was originally meant to bring prosperity and healthy eating to folks in the Deep South — in Tim’s case, it was Alabama.
Sharing authentic cuisine is an amazing networking idea at any time of year, as I wrote about in an earlier blog that recommended sharing your passions, including food, as a way to network authentically. If you aren’t a cook or just don’t have the time to prepare complicated recipes, consider sharing in other ways. Rosemarie Hester from my Brooklyn writer’s group loves to surprise her sons when they celebrate together with locally grown honey, unusual cheeses and special balsamic vinegars. She includes Christmas caroling in the evening’s agenda, and brings along xeroxed pages with the lyrics. When she visits her son’s girlfriend’s Chinese American family, she brings fig bread or olive bread to complement their lavish banquet of Asian food. Dania Rajendra, a fabulous cook who is also in my writer’s group, added she is always delighted when guests contribute their favorite holiday treat when they visit, even if it is Junior’s Cheesecake (from the famous Brooklyn deli) or cookies from that neighborhood Norwegian Bakery.
So consider this your reminder all year long that those authentic recipes, whether you personally prepare them or not, are really appreciated by your relatives, as well as by friends and clients, who love being included as “family.” Happy Holidays!