Unlike many people I know, I’m not one of those people who thinks its morally unethical to listen to Christmas music before Thanksgiving. In fact, I listen to it all year long. When I traveled abroad on a boat for about four months, I made everyone sick of Christmas music before it was even Halloween. But how I can help myself from listening to happiest music ever made? Reminds me of home, of family, of friends, and of one of my favorite seasons!
I have a good friend who used to say at the start of every season, “[Particular season, holiday, time of year] is my FAVORITE time of year.” And when the season’s miscomings began to show either with soggy March grass or excruciatingly hot dog days of summer, she’d move the the next season. I tend to be the same way.
Now that the holidays are upon us, I can say with certainty, “Christmas is (one of) my favorite times of year.” After all I’m a December baby by birth, it’s a given! Not only is there so much to be thankful for. The music, the food, the noises, smells, sounds, ah! I get excited just anticipating it!
As we grow older, instead of asking for dolls and monster trucks, our wishes turn into money, cars, and stereo systems (wow, just dated myself by saying “stereo system”). As we grow even older (and mature, I imagine) we begin to wish for nothing but love and happiness (gag if you must, I get corny around the holidays). Early mornings dragging Mom and Dad out of bed are replaced by lingering brunches filled with mimosas and less presents. Deck your halls, jingle your jingle bells, and make food that makes everyone smile.
There’s something romantically nostalgic about the holidays. A certain longing and wistfulness associated with the glowing lights of the tree and the warm of the fire. Like the lingering words of a crooner belting out a melody. Christmas is like that melody. And yes, I’m saying Christmas, not “holidays.” I like and respect all who celebrate them, but let’s be honest, it’s all about Christmas.
One of the most interesting things about my travels has been my exploration of food in different countries and cultures. I remember celebrating my birthday in Turkey one year and smelling the roasting chestnuts from the street carts. Istanbul’s chestnut stands are like the roasted peanut stands on 34th St. They’re everywhere, but much more delicious.
Here’s a remake of one of the vendors I went to, with a few additions.
Salt, honey, goat cheese, assorted sweet dried fruits such as dates, apricots, or figs.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Cut “X”‘s on the bottom side of each chestnut. This should break through the skin because chestnuts are softer nuts. Place in a shallow baking pan and roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes. Timing depends on how “done” aka soft you like the nut to be. After about 15 minutes you will be able to peel back the coating around the nut. I prefer them done longer, but its really preference. The more they are baked, the less they taste like crunchy nuts and more like soft versions of mashed potatoes.
Pull them out of the oven and peel back skin as soon as they are cool enough to touch. Sprinkle salt, drizzle honey, top with cheese, or eat with fruit. Think Eastern Europe type cheeses and fruits, they pair well.
Many people don’t like the taste. Well, not dislike, but are surprised by the texture. If you don’t like them think of it as a cheap and easy was to make your house smell good, even if you’re not a baker.