One big holiday down. One more to go. There is always a point during the feasting season when all of the grocery shopping, the cheese straw making, the gift wrapping, the cocktail parties, and mostly, all of the family ruckus, well, it all becomes just a little too much to bear.
(Quick piece of advice to young couples: don’t invite your parents and the in-laws to the Thanksgiving table at your new home in Birmingham two months after you move to town. Around the time when you’re finishing the gravy, you’ll realize you’ve made a rookie holiday mistake.)
That’s when I retreat to the kitchen. And stay there. Cooks need solitude, a pause, a little treat, to keep them motivated and in a giving mood during the holidays. It could be saving the chicken liver from a beautiful bird to sear in butter and snack on with piece of toast. It could be listening to The Band’s Music from Big Pink.
For me, it’s a mug of double-strength coffee with a glug of Nocino Amaro Quentessentia. That’s my lift when it comes time to address the hulking beef rib roast. I polled the SL Food Team, the talented crew of kitchen elves that worked their tails off to produce our Thanksgiving and Christmas issues, and asked them how they found serenity during the mad dash from now until New Year’s.
Here’s what they had to say:
Angela Sellers, test kitchen pro:
“I listen to “A Charlie Brown Christmas” cd by the Vince Guaraldi Trio all December long.”
Norman King, test kitchen pro:
“I buy a bottle of Woodford Reserve to sip only during moments of solitude you’ll find during stand, simmer, or bake times. I also keep Pandora locked on my Nancy Wilson/Sarah Vaughn station.”
Pam Lolley, test kitchen pro:
“I make myself a latte and warm up a leftover sweet roll.”
Rebecca Gordon, test kitchen director:
“Hire help! I splurge and have a cleaning service spiff up behind me.”
Pat York, editorial assistant:
“After company is gone or we are finally home from someone else’s house, and the kitchen has been cleaned and put back in order, I like to spend time outside. Simply walking in the woods, playing with the dogs, and breathing the clean, crisp, winter air is physically and mentally rejuvenating.
Shannon Satterwhite, food director:
“Music is definitely a de-stresser during the holidays. My mother would always play her Elvis records to take the edge off while making tins of time-consuming fudge—I can still hear the scratchy vinyl version of “Blue Christmas” echoing throughout the house. For me, I like a little Widespread Panic or Karl Denson humming in the background, but “the King” always seems to find a spot on my playlist.”
Donna Florio, senior writer:
“I like to sit down with a cup of tea, (as a Charleston native, I’m partial to American classic Charleston Tea Plantation grown nearby) and light one of Hové Parfumeur’s delicious Southern candles—tea olive, jasmine, gardenia, or Spanish moss. hoveparfumeur.com/scentsforthehome.htm If there’s time, I pull out “A Christmas Memory” by Truman Capote. It’s such a beautiful book, about Christmas in Alabama in simpler times. Sook and Buddy are so excited about baking fruitcakes that it almost (but not quite) makes me want to do the same. The end of the story always makes me cry, but remembering all my waiting chores brings me back to reality.
Mary Allen Perry, senior food editor
“I plant a window garden of snowy paperwhites.
Vanessa McNeil Rocchio, test kitchen specialist/food styling:
“I soak a cotton ball with Nielson-Massey Peppermint Extract to make the whole house smell like the holidays.”
JoAnn Weatherly, recipe editor:
“I make the mess, my husband cleans up. And he’s really good at it!”
So there you have it, folks. Let us know how you find your serenity in the kitchen this time of year?