Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy Sylvester

It's 2008. Who can believe it? Don't you remember how you'd think about the year 2000. How old you'd be, what you might be doing, etc...Of course, the first big year like that was 1984 but that's really a long time ago and who remembers where I was that New Years (probably Beth Mann's house).

Was remembering the ghost of New Years past with some visitors currently in town - longtime camp buddy, Howie Feiwus and his wife, Michelle. We both remembered a New Year's of our youth at Avi Havivi's house with the requisite 'barfer' in the back room (all over the coats, yech) and sleeping on the floor in Avi's living room and waking up the next morning really early and getting the heck out of there, fast. Later years were more sedate...there was the New Year's dinner at Danny and Annemaureen for the Millenium, marked by altogether too much food, many courses, many hours of eating, resting, walking and eating again - galette des rois, my chestnut layer cake, Danny's campari and grapefuit sorbet (sorry, Lisa, can't remember what you made but I'm sure it was good). There was the New Year's that Ira and went to bed before midnight - not a tragedy really. Then, there was last night, our second New Year's event that we've thrown here in Jerusalem.

New Year's is sort of the 'bastard child' here. Many don't celebrate at all, especially in religious and conservative Jerusalem. As well, we live in a world where increasingly, the secular and seemingly benign holidays of our youth are not celebrated at all - Thanksgiving barely registers on the religious Jew's calendar and Xmas break is no longer an established tradition for all. Most kids at religous day schools in the Ortho world are off for their mid-winter break during the end of January. New Year's with it's associated St. Sylvester, although I assure you I had no idea of this connection until coming to Israel after college and heard people refer to New Year's as Sylvester (and even then, I think it was some years before I heard about St. Sylvester) puts people off as they are not comfortable with the connection. As well, it's not a holiday at all despite the fact that people do go out and certainly in Tel Aviv, that 'den of iniquity', it's a happening event. But let's be honest, knowing you have to get up the next day and put the kids on the bus, show up at work and generally function does put a damper on the festivities. A few of our guests have NEVER been to New Year's festivities. One friend, daughter of a prominent Orthodox Rabbi, who's a real modernist, said that her father felt very strongly that one should not celebrate the secular New Year's at all. She decided that at the age of 50 she could come to the party, enjoy and not worry about 'falling off the path.' She wasn't going to tell Mom and Dad about it though. Another friend, who grew up mostly here, has just never had the opportunity to do the 'New Year's thing.' But we all agreed that it was nice to party not on Shabbat. There is a dearth of non-Shabbat and holiday leisure time in this country and it gets boring to only entertain on Shabbat but with a busy 6 day work week, when can one make a party?

Last year, we had a few friends over and it was nice. This year, we went more for the gusto with an expanded guest list and had about 25 people last night for a really lovely party. One local wag commented that when she heard the noise of the party as she approached, she realized that it was from our house, a far cry from last year's more sedate party when, as she put it, 'we didn't know anybody!'

We had fun dips (Natan had a heavy hand on the chilies this year so the feta cheese and peppers was almost uneatable). We made Howard Solomon's Muhamara which is based on Paula Wolfert's recipe, and various munchies (thanks Miriam L for the spinach/cheese pie), accompanied by decent drinkables and good music d jay'ed by Natan. The desserts were quite exciting - as I had promised - Jess made a fab trifle (Nigella's recipe, watch her demo it here), Sheryl Abbey made apple pie (excellent crust) Debbie Perla made chocolate cheesecake, Natan and I, truffles, and Ira and I, passion fruit mousse parfaits - these were really great and if you want the recipe, we'll be blogging (give us a day or two) about it shortly. A couple of glasses of champagne and one really good bottle that was drunk on the sly - thanks Linda G - made it a really fun night.

Join us - Next year in J'lem.


Susan said...


Happy New Year from your Boreum Hill friend Susan Shapiro in good old Brooklyn NY. Glad to hear you all are doing well. Send me your email address. Love the Blog, you're making me hungry!

With love,

Beth Steinberg said...

Susan, Great to hear from you. Check out my food blog at freefallcooking.blogspot.com and get even more hungry. Email me at bethsteinberg@yahoo.com. Tried to respond to you but only have old addresses.