Note: This blog on sharing traditional family recipes for New Year’s was written in 2010 when I was still living in Brooklyn, but the only update is that I now serve Hoppin’ John to family and friends in Michigan!
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 Hopping John Agenda, after a southern holiday tradition that my late husband Tim and I started together– sharing a New Year’s Day feast of blackeyed peas and rice with greens that is called Hopping 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 New Year!
The best business networking should be a form of branding, a way to express your values and your authentic self. I learned about the effectiveness of combining personal passions and business in California and I affectionately call my education “the Hoppin John Agenda,” after the warm, southern New Year’s tradition that is such an antithesis to the usual way Americans ring in the New Year.
In California, (first LA, then San Francisco) most friends held traditional New Year’s Eve events where we stayed up until midnight, sharing appetizers and champagne. My late husband Tim and I joined them – it was great fun, after all — but then got up early to host our Hoppin John event on New Year’s Day (or the first weekend day afterwards). This afternoon event was a celebration of good, healthy southern food (black-eyed peas and rice with greens), friendship and sharing our hopes for the coming year. We encouraged friends to bring their kids and their guitars. Tim was from Alabama and he loved to share his southern traditions and play southern blues on the piano. By the time we left the west coast, our event had become rather legendary and had spawned other regionally themed events among our friends.
Amazingly, lots of our best client leads came from the friends who shared the good cheer of Hoppin John or tasted some of the southern Green Top bar-b-que we had flown in as a summer treat. I continue Hoppin John celebrations in my Brooklyn neighborhood primarily as a way to introduce my friends from the Flatbush Food Coop board to friends in my coop building and it still works magic.
Networking authentically actually doesn’t have to involve food or entertaining, if that is not your passion – but it should involve sharing your genuine passions with everyone you meet, whether it’s your family, sports, music, or anything else that connects you to others. And if you start the conversation by finding out what they are passionate about, you are really on the right track to a friendship.
Hoppin John, anyone?
For great networking, check out these groups (listed alphabetically):
Kate Gaffin’s Connecting to Greatness, www.connectingtogreatness.com.
National Association of Women Business Owners, New York City, www.nawbonyc.org
TeamWomen, New York Chapter, www.teamwomennyc.com