The lovely Laura is a fellow Accenteer. I was first introduced to her via a mutual friend and after a year or so of emails, we finally met at a book launch about a month ago where we discovered we both have a fondness for metallic shoes. She has been a constant source of counsel and laughs, and is a wonderful writer of evocative women's fiction with engaging and sincere stories at the heart. Extremely pleased she's kicking off my blog party today.....
Fairytale of New York (the best Christmas song EVER!)
When Kristen first asked if I’d like to take part in a festive food blog series I was sceptical. I adore eating but cooking is another matter. My lack of culinary skills is verging on legendary to those who know me well, and to many who don’t. I do attempt the occasional bake and these disasters are posted online so that others might feel less useless in the kitchen.
Consequently, I will not be sharing handy hints for the crumbliest, most melt-in-the-mouth mince pies. Instead I’ll share a festive food memory: a Christmas lunch in downtown Manhattan. If this makes me sound impossibly glamourous, fear not. It was a one-off. Most years I’m at home, grappling with a dried out bird and over-cooked sprouts.
My sister had been living in NYC for almost a year and work commitments meant that she couldn’t come home for the holiday. No way did I want her spending Christmas alone. This was B.C. (before children) so laden with gifts (and tea bags and Marmite) my husband and I flew into JFK the day before Christmas Eve. New York is an incredible city and its people know how to celebrate Yuletide. There was no snow but other than that it was A-star magical.
For a foodie, New York is Nirvana. With enough time, and a diet plan for January, you can eat your way round the world in the myriad restaurants there. I’m not a fan of turkey – or any other meat – or Christmas pudding and while I enjoy crisp sprouts, I’m less keen on the effect they have on my fella and boys. The same was true back then. All in all it seemed crazy to plump for a traditional lunch faced with the vast array of cuisine on offer.
But we were late to book and while I fancied experimenting with Vietnamese or Mongolian, the restaurants we tried were fully booked. And so it was that we went to a small, pleasant but unprepossessing-looking, Italian restaurant in the East Village, not too far from my sister’s Chelsea apartment. A family run gaff it was packed to the gills with Italian-Americans; I felt as if I were in a scene from GoodFellas – without the guns and dead bodies. The food was great – really great: bruschetta, fresh pasta laced in an arrabiata sauce, grilled fish, and a tiramisu to die for. The wine was delicious and plentiful. But what made it so special was the welcome given to us by the restaurateur and his family. Bella.
For Christmas is not about the gifts, or the food and drink, it’s about people and spending it with those you love.
While I cannot share the secrets of that wonderful meal, and do not have a special festive food recipe, I can share a tip for mulled wine: Don’t forget to add extra brandy! Even if – like me – you cheat with ready-prepared sachets (or ready mixed bottles – M&S do a decent one), it’s always worth adding another dash of brandy. That and a fresh orange or two stuffed with cloves and you’ll pass it off as your own work, no problem. Chin-chin and Merry Christmas!
Merry Christmas to you too, Laura! Extra brandy! A tip that's not just for Christmas I feel....
Liverpool born, Laura is a taff at heart. Her novel, Public Battles, Private Wars, was a Welsh Books Council Book of the month; Redemption Song, was published in January 2016 and was a Kindle top twenty. The Family Line is a family drama set in the near future, looking at identity and parenting. ‘It will haunt your dreams’ Books at Broadway. Her next novel, Skin Deep, published in June 2017, can best be described as Grip Lit, women’s fiction with a dark edge. Alongside writing, she works as an editor and mentor, and runs workshops on the art of fiction.