For about five minutes — before we remembered that we have an infant, a 6 year-old, two full-time jobs, a not very big apartment, an international business trip this month (sadly, not mine) are now doubting we are actually made of whatever is required to pull this off — we thought we might have a Friendsgiving dinner party this year. I love Thanksgiving and I want more of it in my life, ditto to friends and also dinner parties. Everything about this was going to awesome. I didn’t have to plan the menu to my perfect Thanksgiving dinner because I wrote it in my head probably five years ago and from what I hear, Alton Brown’s turkey recipe is the only one you’ll ever need. (Or should I dry brine? Or maybe this lacquered thing? Or maybe a mash-up of all of them? Or maybe just import a smoked one from Texas and be the most chilled out host in the history of Thanksgiving, ever, amiright?) Right, well, I had everything else planned out:
Welcome to the 1000th recipe on smittenkitchen.com. One. Thou. Sandth. Didn’t I just start this thing? Wasn’t it only supposed to last six months? How did we let things get so out of hand? Wait, do I finally have an answer to the ever-present question “What do you do all day?” that’s not “Read The Awl and try to figure out what it means that most of my life goals look like this?” Hm, probably not.
For reasons I cannot adequately put my finger on, if you show up to a potluck or picnic this weekend with carafes of freshly-squeezed lemonade, you will be welcomed and adored, but if you show up with the same carafes of freshly-made pink lemonade, people will actually freak out. Why is pink lemonade so much more exciting than the pale yellow that accurately depicts the lemons from which it is derived? It’s a mystery to me as well but I — a person who does not own a single pink garment and likes to consider myself immune to pastel-tinted charms — will always reach for it first.
Almost exactly 5 years ago, in celebration us both signing contracts to write cookbooks, I met a friend* for lunch at a burger joint called The Stand on East 12th Street, and we finished the meal with something the menu declared a toasted marshmallow milkshake. I don’t remember a thing about the burger, but I do know that pretty much every conversation I had in the weeks that followed went like this: “The weather is so nice today!” “It would be perfect for a toasted marshmallow milkshake, don’t you think?” “How is your son sleeping these days?” “Did I tell you about this toasted marshmallow milkshake I had? Let me tell you about this toasted marshmallow milkshake I had.” “Can you believe this Deepwater Horizon mess?” “Toasted marshmallow milkshake, toasted marshmallow milkshake toasted marshmallow milkshake.” You could argue it had some impact on me.
There are a lot of great reasons to make your own soda syrup. You can use real sugar, rather than the HFCS devil that lurks in most bottles. You can make flavors that make you happy, from real seasonal ingredients with complexity and intensity, and you can use up excesses of things in your fridge like, say, the time you assumed strawberries being on sale meant that you were going to eat a few pounds of them before they went bad. You can use the syrup as a foundation for cocktails, because it’s Friday and baby, you’ve earned it, and you can package bottles up as gifts for friends, because you’re just that awesome of a person.
In the almost six years since I last waddled around in the name of procreation — I know, I make it sound so glowy and glamorous — to my delight, two things in particular have changed: 1. You can now get maternity pants that have almost all of the dignity of regular ones, thanks to small elastic panels above each pocket that frankly would be as welcome the day after Thanksgiving as they are now that I’m approaching the six-month mark and people no longer believe me when I said I just had a really big lunch. (However, a New York-specific rule remains: you’re not actually “big” until someone willingly cedes his or her seat on the subway for you, by which standards, I must be svelte. Hey, I’ll take it.) 2. More pertinently to the scope of a cooking website, a whole lot of bars are making really great mocktails.
As far as Christmas songs go, Fairytale of New York is pretty bleak. Instead of chestnuts on the open fire, horses come in 18 to 1; instead of white Christmases, morphine drips; instead of coming home for the holidays, one waits them out in drunk tanks. It’s not the stuff of greeting cards. And yet, for a whole lot of people, myself included, it wouldn’t be December without The Pogues 1987 holiday anti-ballad on repeat. It comes in handy when you’re feeling a little grinchy* about the season; there’s something of a relief in a song where nobody does anything right but aren’t pretending things are any other way. The sentiments are honest, and in a way, a little magical, choirs and bells and bands in the street, imagining better times and better years ahead.