It’s that time of year again, the most wonderful time of year, and while Halloween brings out the trickster and imp in me, Christmas and the winter holidays bring out the little girl. I remember past Christmas in Abuela’s house when my uncle would dress up like Santa Claus, and holidays in Staten Island, when we would have our good friend and neighbor dress up like Santa when my twin brothers were little boys. Mami was a miracle worker at managing Papi’s firefighter salary, and at times like these, I marvel that our holiday memories don’t reflect the struggle she must have faced. Santa Claus always found his way to our home, his gift sack brimming with surprises for me and my siblings, and always, friends and family gathered to share wonderful holiday meals. One year, we even roasted a whole lechon outside! More recently, as a mom, I have enjoyed creating Christmas memories for my children to cherish, hanging stockings, creating a Dicken’s Christmas village for Angela, and celebrating Tres Reyes. Even our Christmas family trips have become part of our family holiday experience.
Since Erik was a little boy of about 6 years old, we have taken to driving up to a tree farm in Connecticut to chop down our Christmas tree. We’d sing Christmas songs all the way up I-95, I would pack sandwiches, thermoses filled with hotdogs, hot chocolate and cup o’ soups, and we would have a little picnic in the parking lot before setting out in a tractor pulled hay cart on our quest to find the perfect tree. The boys (and subsequently Angie) would take turns sawing down the tree, and then, right before the tree fell, we would all yell, “AAAAMMMBBBEEERRRRR!!” (it’s an inside joke, courtesy of Marc). Then we would invite family and friends over on the next day to help decorate our tree, I would cook, and we’d all celebrate the start of the season. This is certainly my favorite time of the year.
Our family picnic in the parking lot of the tree farm
Marc, Erik, David, Jerry, and Angie cutting down the tree for upstairs
Of course, if you’re going to be inviting friends to your home over the holidays, you’re going to want to feed them (otherwise they’ll talk about you, lol!), and nothing says Christmas to me like Mami’s delicious Pasteles, Pernil, and Arroz con Gandules.
I always like to make enough pernil that I have plenty of leftovers to make Cuban sandwiches the day after. We’re going to need a nice big batch of Coquito to wash all that good food down with, and then we can cue the Christmas Aguinaldos on the CD player or the iPod. WEPA!
It’s also the time of year when you look back and take inventory, and look ahead with plans. This has been a very busy year for me in many ways, and all of my planning and hard work is about to take fruit. As you may have heard through the grapevine, I have recently been working with Rachael Ray and her production company WATCH Entertainment on a project that would return me back to the studio kitchen. After months of planning, countless meetings and idea drafts, I am very excited to make an announcement that has been a long time coming. We are launching a new cooking show in January, which will air on the Food Network, called Viva Daisy! (working title). I was lucky enough to work with a large part of my old crew, and it was wonderful to work with Rich Dooley, Herb Sevush, and Chris Styler again. The new show looks wonderful, and we encourage you to tune in, and let the good folks at the Food Network know that you love it! We are all about feedback!
And that’s how we’re going to wrap this up on the site for 2008, with our eye clearly focused on 2009 and all of the wonderful exciting prospects ahead. While times may be a bit tough economically right now, I am confident that these holidays will be an opportunity to create very special memories for my family, my friends and me. It’s a chance to share in the love and hope of the season, in a way that is more meaningful than a retail option. Looking back, I can’t remember the specific gifts that I have received for any particular Christmas, but I can tell you specific stories about sharing love and laughter with family and friends. I hope to create many more memories like those, this year, to give as gifts to those I love.
I am shopping a new cookbook that will contain the recipes on the new shows and much more, and you can still find my monthly column, Mucho Gusto! with Daisy Martinez in “Everyday with Rachael Ray”, and in “Selecciones Reader’s Digest”. I want to wish everyone a very joyous holiday, and my sincerest wishes for a happy, healthy New Year, in a world filled with peace. See you next year!