I don’t come from a family of deep-steeped traditions. My mother was raised Catholic, my father Swedenborgian (kind of a blue-blood cult, based on the wild-eyed visions of a rich Bostonite in the late 1800s), so they split the difference and raised us agnostic. Our ethnic and cultural backgrounds are kind of Euro-mutt, a little more French and Irish than other things — but it’s not like corned beef and cassoulet were our go-to dinners.
So we made food traditions up as we went along. Christmas breakfast was an important meal, but the items we ate were a hodgepodge. Crescent rolls (sourced from a little artisan bakery called Pillsbury), ham, yogurt, a tropical juice blend, herring in sour cream. Each year we would riff and freestyle on everything that came before (e.g., swap in cinnamon rolls for crescent), building traditions and morphing them along the way.
That’s why I was so struck by Miriam Bale’s piece on Christmas in Brooklyn, accumulating new traditions each year like the rings on a redwood. As a fellow Brooklyn transplant — and someone who was raised on a foundation of make-it-up-as-you-go — I like the idea that you don’t need 100 years of repetition for something to matter.
Similarly, my roundup of Bushwick tamales looks at a traditional Mexican Christmas food, imported to Brooklyn and modified along the way. Our look at the oyster bar in Penn Station examines a place where travelers — holiday and otherwise — have cobbled together a scrappy community of friends and loved ones near the LIRR tracks. And the profile of podcast personality Dan Pashman explores how holiday food traditions can always be upended (MSG gravy, anybody?).
There’s other great content in this issue too, including the far-ranging food programming at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, an engaging feature on New York’s “truffle mafia,” a look at two Brooklyn moms who are reclaiming school lunch and of course our holiday gift guide. Let’s not forget all the great Long Island and East End content as well!
Here’s hoping that whatever traditions you observe — or that you create on the spot — you are spending time with people you love, soaking up the things that matter.
Read our entire holiday issue, with stories from all four of our titles, here.