A big year; a quiet New Year…

For many, many years we have had a big dinner on New Year’s Eve with lots of friends and lots of courses. The largest number of people, in 2004, who sat down to eat was eighteen. Once or twice,  in our last and smallest house, we were only six or seven. Tonight we will be four,  just us and good friends from Essex who have been stalwarts of the Manchester dinners and will now share our first new year dinner in our new home.

This time last year we ate smoked trout and tapenade, chestnut and celeriac soup, rib of beef, mushroom and nut roast, cheese and spiced pears, apple creme caramel.

Tonight we will eat more modestly, though with a few echoes of last year: celeriac and beetroot soup, ham with leek and cream sauce and homemade pasta, cheese and those spiced pears…

It’s been a big year, full of change. Partner had big birthday, our second granddaughter was born, we bought a campervan and biggest of all, we moved to the other side of the country.

Tonight we will think of all of you who have shared new year and other special occasions with us in the past – especially last year’s New Year’s Eve and partner’s birthday in the spring. You know who you are.

Wishing all our friends and anyone else reading this a very happy new year and all the very best for 2013.

Of food, feasts and friendship

The other weekend we had a party but other people brought the food: very strange. We’ve had a lot of farewell dinners this autumn, each one with echoes of earlier dinners when we weren’t about to leave everyone.

My current cookery notebook begins in 2001. It’s the third of these notebooks, all kept the same way: recipes in the front, dinner and party menus at the back. The first is a slim volume, begun when I was sixteen in 1976. This last book has a silver cover and was bought for me by my daughter. I’ve been reading through menus from ten, eleven years ago, seeing names of people I’ve just been saying goodbye to; and other names of friends no longer here. I miss them.

Some dishes I can taste again (lamb with lentils and artichoke hearts, pears baked with Rasteau); others stir no memories at all. What was Moroccan chicken? Was it nice? Leafing through the years, with each meal I am transported back to that table, that house, those friendly faces, the talk and laughter.