I don’t know about you but I’m finding this holiday season to be very strange. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the weather? Aside from one frigid day, temps have been pretty moderate and we have yet to see any real snow. I have to say, thank goodness for that because over the last year we’ve endured blizzards, an earthquake and a hurricane so I think it is only fair that the man upstairs cuts us a break. Oh no, now I’ve jinxed us. If your flights get cancelled due to inclement weather, feel free to blame me. Also, I have been shocked by how few holiday cards I’ve received this year. Where is the stack of grinning gap toothed children? I have gotten a total of five cards, one from my sister, one via email, two from friends I knew in my past career and the best? A photo of my doorman’s three grandchildren. So maybe everyone else is feeling strange too? (Or maybe they found out I was making fun of their kids.) But regardless of why, despite trimming the tree, decorating cookies and lighting the menorah (by the way, there’s nothing like having your ½ gentile niece teach you to play dreidel to make you feel like a bad Jew), I’m completely disengaged from the holiday spirit.
My lack of investment in Christmas/Chanukah/New Year’s isn’t coming from a Scrooge-y or Grinch-y place. It’s almost as if I’ve been unburdened from anticipation. I feel kind of relieved that I’m not holding on to any expectations and am just living my life. I tend to make a big fuss over birthdays and Christmas, probably based on some false notion of childhood emotional deprivation or feeling like our dinner table tableau never quite matched Norman Rockwell’s. But this year I’ve actually forgotten what date it is a few times and have had to do the math to figure out on which day Christmas falls.
All of this is reminding me of the one other time in my life when I have felt as I do now, the semester I spent in London during my junior year of college. Being abroad was disorienting in many ways but in others it was almost like an escape. For the first time I was truly unavailable for family obligations or holidays. Six hours by plane and a different time zone freed me from the train ride into the city to celebrate a birthday, go to Yom Kippur services, eat some turkey. And I never got wistful. The high holidays came and went and I realized, “oops, forgot to do anything about that.” But I didn’t feel guilty. For a long weekend in November my roommate and I went to Paris and, over croque messieurs in a café, I realized it was actually Thanksgiving and I was basically having a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner. It was delicious and we had a great trip. By Christmas time I had met my friend Michelle and we were in Rome. You’d think being in the home of the Vatican on December 25th would have made me feel left out in some way but it didn’t. I was more focused on soaking up all the things I was seeing for the first time to really care. When you have The Colosseum and the Piazza di Spagna are you really going to waste your time longing for the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree? Not me. By December 31st we were on an overnight train to Salzburg passing a bottle of wine across our sleeping compartment and laughing ourselves to sleep. Did I even think about Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve? Blessedly, no.
And so here I am over 20 years later feeling light as a feather and looking forward to 2012. And for some reason I don’t think I’m alone. In addition to my lack of cards I’ve been surprised by the lack of festivities. Not that I ever believe the exhausting holiday whirl pitched to us on the Today Show as being a source of exhaustion, wardrobe dilemmas and calorie consumption. But other than a few small dinner gatherings there seems to have fallen a social hush. And when I talk to friends they report the same thing. Have we all taken ourselves off the holiday hook?
I’m sure the answer to that is ‘no.’ There must be some of you still rushing to parties, struggling to find the perfect house gift or playing host and needing just the right thing to serve with drinks or after dinner coffee. This is where I come in. In fact I have been invited to ring in the New Year at two very convenient locations (one flight up and nine blocks away, respectively) and had been looking for an excuse to make this brittle. Pine nut prices have been insane so when I saw a bag at Trader Joe’s for under $10, I jumped. This confection is super easy to make and doesn’t even involve a candy thermometer. It is not your Ye Olde General Store’s peanut brittle. The woody rosemary and slight touch of lemon add wonderful flavor and sophistication. Set out a bowl to have with a great wine or champagne, fill a pretty bag to give to your hostess or keep it all to yourself. And do enjoy your holidays, whether you care or not.
Enjoy Your Holidays Pine Nut Brittle
from Molto Gusto, Mario Batali 2010Printer Friendly Version
1 1/2 cups, (7 oz) pine nuts
1 1/2 T fresh rosemary leaves, rough chopped
2 T canola, grapeseed or mild olive oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup corn syrup
3 T butter
3/8 t baking soda
1 t salt
One 1-inch thick lemon slice
Preheat to 350
Spread pine nuts on baking sheet and toast for 8-10 minutes, until lightly colored.Transfer to a plate and let cool, then toss with rosemary.Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and grease paper generously with the oil. Brush or rub an offset spatula or wooden spoon with oil. Set aside.
Combine sugar, water, corn syrup & butter in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Cook, without stirring, swirling pan occasionally, until caramel is golden brown, 8-15 minutes. (FYI--It took mine 15 minutes to turn golden brown. Start watching after 8 and keep an eye on it.)
Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the baking soda and salt.
Using offset spatula or spoon, quickly stir in nuts and rosemary until the nuts are thoroughly coated.
Pour mixture onto parchment lined baking sheet then use lemon slice to spread and flatten the brittle. Let cool completely.
Break or cut brittle into small pieces. Lasts one week in air tight container.
Yield: 4 cups or so