This is going to be the shortest list of New Year’s food resolutions ever. Ready?
Use the good stuff.
Stay with me here.
I’ll never forget a few years back when a group of us cleaned out the attic of a friend’s elderly mother. We found box after box of beautiful china, tableware, linens – still wrapped in their original packages from when the woman had received them as wedding gifts in 1939. Yes, 1939. She’d been saving them for a special occasion. She’d never had the chance to enjoy them and now it was too late. I came home with some crystal cocktail stirrers and linen bar napkins to remember her by.
If you check your pantry, I’ll bet you’ll find a jar of fancy preserves that are too nice for everyday use. Maybe a bottle of genuine maple syrup someone brought from Canada. Real vanilla beans just waiting for you to steep them into extract. A tiny vial of expensive saffron threads that you could enjoy tonight, if you only dared to use them.
I understand that saving and stockpiling are rooted in hard-won wisdom. Many city dwellers are just one generation removed from families or farms that faced hardship, and too many still do. I'm not suggesting that we abandon the practice of putting up staples or stocking a larder. But taken to extreme, saving life’s niceties for some future, better day disregards the importance – and occasional magic – of now.
What I’d like to see is a loosening of the noose around our belief that only momentous occasions deserve the good stuff. What exactly are we waiting for?
Not long ago, my sister and I eagerly opened a bottle of Champagne our brother had been saving a good while, awaiting a special occasion. Instead of that joyous “pop,” the cork came out with a sad, tiny squeak. Air had gotten into the bottle and the bubbly had gone flat. (We made a nice Champagne vinaigrette salad dressing with it, but that’s beside the point.)
Nothing keeps forever. A while back I wrote about scheduling a regular “Date Night” to purge the stale stuff. It’s a sobering experience to fill a trash can with jars and tins of tasty goods that never had a chance to please their owners.
In 2017, let’s promise to serve sandwiches on Mother’s Wedgwood china. Let’s pour iced tea into Waterford goblets. Eat pâté on an ordinary day. Delicious things happen when we taste and share the good stuff. Let’s not waste a single moment. Here’s to a wonderful new year!