Friday, November 20, 2015

The Holidays

It appears the holiday season has arrived. We're only a week away from Thanksgiving (and Black Friday) and any visit to a shopping mall will expose you to cynically-early efforts to seduce you into spending money.

My favorite holiday activity is sending out greeting cards. I've started assessing how many I need this year and who'll be lucky enough to receive them. I send out a lot (around 100) and hand-write them so the work takes some time. I'll probably start next week with that. How 'bout you: do you send out cards?

A second-favorite thing is getting presents. Who doesn't like presents? I've learned a trick -- when people ask what I want, I request stuff I crave but never get myself. I'm naturally ascetic and rarely buy myself nice things. It's good to receive those things as gifts because I savor them. A few years back, I asked for and received ridiculously-expensive caviar which was fun to try.

This year, I'm asking for two things I've always wanted to try but have never sprung for due to their high cost -- truffles and Iberian ham. Have you had either?

Truffles are underground fungi prized for the strong flavor and aroma. I've never had one and am dying to see what the fuss is about. Truffles are extremely expensive (thousands of dollars per pound) so they're usually shaved to spread flavor as efficiently as possible. They're available in paste and sauce from Dean & Deluca, a famous gourmet-shop in NYC. (Be warned that most "truffle oil" does not contain actual truffles but, instead, uses synthetic flavoring to mimic the taste.)

Another food I want to try before I die is Iberian ham (Jamon iberico). It is the best ham in the world, made from pigs raised in Spain on acorns and olives. The pigs are coddled and pampered which produces fine-quality meat. There is only one company legally allowed to sell this ham in the U.S. and the ham's price is high (around $96/lb.). You can get it in a sampler, again from D&D.

What do you want Santa to bring you this year?


  1. Ooooh, that is a good idea!!! Well, I find it hard to ask for things specifically as I feel a bit guilty asking but I'd love an Erstwilder or Tatty Devine brooch or a Lindybop or Lady V dress!!!

  2. Wow! 100 cards! That is a whole lotta work!

    I'm a big believer in handmade gifts. Something that comes from the heart rather than the wallet. Or someone that has found that perfect "something" while thrifting that they knew I'd really appreciate.

    Gourmet treats are always fun at this time of the year. I never say no to high quality dark chocolate.


  3. I can take or leave truffles but totally, totally, TOTALLY with you about Iberian ham, although the Italians and some of their amazing meats would have something to say about that! I'm rather partial to some fine proscuitto with a glass of prosecco!
    But I digress. Come to London Ally, we'll go to The Strand and there you'll find a small shop, Viandas de Salamanca that sells spanish meats. You'd be in heaven. I've included a link that has photos so you can see exactly what I mean!

    1. That sounds great! I'm on the next flight. :-)

  4. Ha! I love what you ask for. We only ever got 1 gift at my house so I'm used to getting one item. I needed a new winter coat this year so I got it a little early (last week) so I don't really expect any major gifts. Hop over to Europe some time though and you will be able to get delicious truffles and that ham for a lot less + you'll have an awesome vacation! I've just read the above comment so after London, stop over in Poland where the food is super cheap and plentiful!

  5. I should get busy on my cards - it's getting really close to the holidays. Ugh.
    I don't ask for anything because no one ever asks what I want. I would tell them that Halston or Rive Gauche cologne would be great. If I got anything edible my kids, and their friends, would be far too willing to help eat it. Teenagers are so generous that way, you know. Although that ham sounds amazing and I usually don't like ham.

  6. I love that your wishes are so specific! I haven't tried either truffles or Iberian ham, but you make a strong case. Happy thanksgiving to you, Ally, and enjoy every minute. xox


  7. Awww, you have good present ideas.

    I usually send christmas cards. As for what I ask for at the holidays - I don't. This year will probably be a practical replacement of my laptop as mine is slowly dying.

    But given choice? I'd like a really cool pair of shoes. Either Cydwoq or Trippen (my two favorites)

    But I have fun picking out stuff for other people. I rarely have the extra $ so actually giving gifts on Christmas is a pretty big deal for me.

    This year will be harder because my mom passed away. Things haven't been the same since. I'm trying to find new holiday traditions but this year has been emotionally difficult to actually do it.

    1. I know. My sympathies again. The holidays after we lose someone close are always emotionally hard; they powerfully remind us of the loss.

    2. Megan, I don't know if you'll be back and get a chance to see this, but ... my dear father passed away in June and it was difficult to contemplate the first holiday without him (our Canadian Thanksgiving, which was in October). A good friend who understood because she went through the same thing said that something that helped her was to make one or two of her father's favourite dishes for the holiday, and she always makes a private toast to him. Maybe it's a thought for you as you look for new traditions. My sympathy to you; it's hard for quite awhile so try to be patient and kind to yourself.

    3. Thank you, Jenny, for your compassion and kindness.

  8. I got some truffle salt from Williams-Sonoma recently and it is AMAZING. A little bit goes a long way. My favorite thing to put it on is scrambled eggs and French fries :) Never had the Iberian ham but I hope you get some as a gift!

  9. Yes to both, and they're sublime. Partner the two in a pasta or risotto and it will be heaven on a fork! :)

    ♥ Jessica