New Year’s eve is like every other night; there is no pause in the march of the universe, no breathless moment of silence among created things that the passage of another twelve months may be noted; and yet no man has quite the same thoughts this evening that come with the coming of darkness on other nights. – Hamilton Wright Mabie
I stopped making New Year’s Resolutions a long time ago. Determination, productivity, efficiency, concentration, I make these resolute declarations to myself, yet these promises are rarely kept, as ephemeral as the ashen fog that hangs low and heavy, shrouding the city in an icy white mist. I continue on in my old fashion, plodding along, often unable to corral my ideas for projects or focus on my writing. I slide through the year just trying to avoid the bumps and reveling in the occasional success.
Yet the New Year is swiftly approaching; before we pop the cork on that bottle of bubbly, I still have the time to savor the last few days of this year and look back over a tumultuous 2017, hoping to draw some kind of conclusion. And allow my accomplishments, the large and the small, to inspire me to reach for the stars.
I’m usually loath to toot my own horn, but this year I am proud of my achievements. I have many friends to thank because, after all, life is a collaboration and I certainly could not have done any of this on my own.
I won an award for my blog.
I had a tremendous spread in Fine Cooking magazine.
I wrote a personal essay for Good Housekeeping.
I had a personal essay published in The Washington Post.
One comment left anonymously at the end of my essay made me cry: “Outstanding writing. Thank you, author, for sharing. This may be the best non-news piece that will appear in WaPo this year.”
My cookbook was named one of Southern Living magazine’s “favorite books of the season”. Among other exciting press (including The Chicago Tribune, Florida Travel & Life, El Paso Inc, Natural Awakenings Magazine, The Post and Courier, The Jerusalem Post, and Charlotte’s NPR affiliate) including a review from one of my food heroes and another.
I was interviewed for the podcast Tell Me Who You Are.
It all still seems rather surreal and I’m not sure how it happened. I pinch myself. A lot. I know that not one iota of any of this would have happened if it weren’t for the tremendous support, encouragement, and help from my friends and family. Do we ever do anything alone? Everything we do is a collaboration, isn’t it?
We got through yet another season at the hotel and 2018 sees us heading into our 4th year at Hôtel Diderot! Hard to believe, right? I have returned to the “memoir” – book, autobiography, account, chronicle, I’m never sure what to call it – on our purchase and running of the hotel and would love to finish a first manuscript during the course of next year. I sit at my desk typing and chuckle a lot. I’ve made quite possibly 500 kilos of jam this year, working with fruits I never have before and creating new combinations from Persimmon-Kiwi (both from the hotel’s courtyard garden) and cherry-rhubarb (idea from a client, fruit from neighbors) to Fig-Strawberry-Raspberry with Porto. I saw our sons settled – one in Brussels and one in Munich – and we adopted two kittens-now-cats.
And we won our local political battle.
Winter is here, cold and damp, a white haze floating over the city. Our holidays were, as usual, low key, and we worked. The Christmas decorations are about to be taken down and we will, in a few hours, switch off the light on 2017 and wake in the morning to a new year. I wish each of you peace, good health, prosperity, and much joy. Thank you for continuing to visit Life’s a Feast.
Now I would love to share with you one of my favorite recipes from Orange Appeal, Moroccan-Spiced Orange Slices in Orange Blossom Water, the perfect finale to a New Year’s Eve feast. This traditional North African dessert – to which I’ve added pomegranate seeds for tartness, pistachios for crunch, and mint for a bright touch—is a light, surprisingly refreshing and fragrant finale to a hearty, rich, or spicy meal. You’ll be surprised at the unexpected flavor transformation the orange blossom water, cinnamon, and powdered sugar bring to simple sliced oranges. This is such a wonderful treat after all the heavy holiday desserts you have been eating and a spectacular change from your usual New Year’s dessert.
- 5 medium to large navel or large blood oranges
- 3 tablespoons orange blossom water
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
- ½ pomegranate, seeded
- 1½ to 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped unsalted pistachios
- 8 to 10 mint leaves, chopped or torn, for garnish
- Peel the oranges and cut away all of the white pith and outer membrane.
- Slice each orange across the core into ¼-inch (1/2 cm) slices, 6 per orange, reserving
- any juice that runs off. Push out and discard any spongy white core.
- Fan the slices in concentric circles, slightly overlapping the fruit, on a large round serving platter.
- Drizzle the orange blossom water and any reserved runoff juice over the fruit.
- Using a fine sieve, lightly and evenly dust with cinnamon and a generous sprinkling of sugar.
- Chill the oranges for at least 1 hour or longer in the refrigerator before serving.
- When ready to serve, sprinkle the pomegranate seeds, pistachios, and mint leaves evenly over the top.
Orange blossom water, also known as orange flower water, can be purchased in
Lebanese, Indian, Middle-Eastern, or gourmet food shops.