Wednesday, December 31, 2008
What are you doing New Year's?
For the past 20 years there has only been on New Year's Eve party I have ever attended. If your last name is O'Keefe and part of your family tree includes Gini (my mother-in-law) there is only one party: her party. It isn't that she's selfish and doesn't want us to have fun that she's not included in, but more to the point, she wants to know that we are all safe. And, besides, why would you want to go anywhere else? Read on, and you'll see what I mean.
When Gini was young, her father was in the diplomatic corps in Occupied Japan. I believe they lived there for about 5 years before returning to the U.S. It became a tradition in their family to eat Chinese food on New Year's Eve. After all, it has all the elements of a good "lucky" New Year's feast: you know, pork and cabbage. So, these days, Gini puts on the Chinese Buffet to end all others every New Year's Eve.
The family begins to gather at about 5 or 6 in the evening and we all help to assemble the Egg Roll filling. Then we roll them. Throughout the night, Mike will fry up several at a time so they are always fresh and hot. Gini makes her absolutely-not-to-be-believed Sweet and Sour Pork and Fried Rice. And, of course, there are the usual drinks, served from the Art Deco bar that she and I found at an Antique Shop 5 years ago.
The nice thing about having Chinese Food on New Year's is that you can eat a lot of it. Every 20 minutes or so, you're hungry again, so the joy lasts all night.
My other favorite tradition of New Year's Eve at the O'Keefe's: Peanut Brittle. My father-in-law's family used to run a confectionery in town back in the 30's, 40's and 50's, and into the 60's. Mike still makes the BEST peanut brittle ever. The peanuts are always delicious and the brittle part (that sugary stuff that sticks it all together) is so clear that you can see light through it. It absolutely melts in your mouth. Then, there is the fudge and all the cookies and dips and cheese balls. Yes...it IS all about the food.
People that we see once or twice a year as well as family and friends of all the siblings (there are 6 kids in my husband's family) circulate through the kitchen (where all good parties happen). They have a bite to eat and talk about their families and what they are up to. We all talk and laugh about the passing year, hitting all the taboo subjects like politics and religion. We express our hopes for the coming year and talk a good game about our newest resolutions. We marinate in the cigarette smoke (Gini and her friends are big smokers , as are most of Michael's siblings) and pray that we don't have sinus infections in the morning. But, we wouldn't want to miss out on the conversation by going to the not-smoke-filled room... And we would never just not show up: The rule is "If you don't show up, you get talked about."
At about 11:59, we turn on the Times Square celebration and watch the ball drop, giving each other kisses and hugs to ring in the New Year and drinking toasts with Champagne, or Gran Spumante, or sparkling grape juice, or 7up - if you had too much Chinese Food.
By about 12:30, it's all over and we head for home to sleep off that 15th Egg Roll we had at 12:10 and remember why we make that New Year's Resolution to lose weight each year.
Happy New Year!!!