Sunday, December 1, 2013

Day 265 My annual holiday open house

Today is my annual holiday open house. When it first started in the middle 1970s, it was a celebration of the end of the term in graduate school. I made mulled wine and bourboned eggnog and invited friends and fellow students to my little apartment. I asked them to bring homemade cookies and I then took the leftovers to all my final exams.

During my 7 years in Virginia, I didn't do it. I had become a rather reclusive drunk and it was all too much trouble. Then I moved to Pennsylvania sober and I did it once but it wasn't much fun. Then I moved to Portland and right away I started it up again. No alcohol of course and after a few years, I stopped doing the cookies. People weren't making them, they were buying them, and it lost any sense of tradition or creativity. Ending up with dozens of store cookies was also tedious and I couldn't get rid of them fast enough.

So a decade or so ago, I switched to a savory open house, asking people to bring finger foods that aren't sweet. People have gotten much more inventive and the results are pretty delicious, like Molly's stuffed grape leaves. I invite about 250 people to drop by. I usually see 40-50. And I do it the same Sunday now, first Sunday of December. Later December Sundays are always booked with concerts and other get-togethers.

I didn't mention the plan in the invitation. I don't usually eat much during the open house. I'm too busy hosting and keeping the mulled cider flowing, but with savories, there are always safe possibilities anyway: nuts, guacamole, hummus. I'll put out some mixed nuts, a green olive hummus, some chips, and some goat cheese that get left here from a party.

Here's my cider recipe. It's legendary. Simmer one gallon apple cider and one quart cranberry juice (unsweetened if you can get it) with a handful of whole cloves, a handful of whole allspice, and a couple of cinnamon sticks. Strain and store until needed (about a week outside or in fridge for several weeks) and then heat and serve. I make 5 gallons at a time for the event.


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