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From Barnes & NobleOur Review
I can't believe that it has gotten to be that time of year already. It seems as if I was just shaking sand from my shoes. And yet, here it is: time to make lists, try to remember who got what last year, decide whether you are really ready to give up the fresh, pungent smell of pine for the easy to put away and clean up after (but it almost looks real) tree. And most of all, time to plan meals, parties, and get-togethers that will bring together all the people you love. I can think of no better way to get into the spirit of the weeks to come than with Mario Batali Holiday Food written by the extremely popular host of the TV Food Network's cooking show Molto Mario. Chef Mario Batali also owns and operates a number of New York restaurants that are high on the Zagat list, so it was with some difficulty that we found a moment to chat about his latest book.
When asked what his book has to offer, he replied, "I would like my book to be a springboard to understanding how important it is to develop your own family traditions for the holidays. Sharing my stories and traditions and the foods that are so much a part of an Italian-American holiday will, I hope, encourage others to build those of their own."
Not surprisingly, his favorite holidays are "Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Without question." He continued, "These are just such obvious holidays for a kid -- the smell of the tree, the excitement of the tightly wrapped presents, the aromas of baking and roasting from the kitchen. It was something that you could count on happening. I still love it!"
"Is there something that is so much a part of your Christmas that it wouldn't be Christmas without it?" I asked. Mario emitted a kind of yucky noise and said, "Divinity. I don't much like it -- it's just too sweet -- but my mom always makes it anyway." I was a bit surprised because this was one of my mother's favorite holiday treats, and you almost never see it anymore. With Mario Batali Holiday Food we can all put some of these traditional foods back on our menus.
"Now that you are all grown up with a family of your own, have your holidays changed much?" I asked. "Not really -- perhaps the foods are bit more sophisticated," he thoughtfully responded. "For instance, on New Year's Eve we always have some Dungeness crab, which I order from Pike Place Market in Seattle, and a big, greasy chardonnay along with our traditional pasta. Christmas dinner might be an old-fashioned Italian stuffed pork roast, Braciolona, or I might make a somewhat more contemporary Crown Roast of Veal with Onions and Pancetta. Either way, we have a rich, tender meat and a great stuffing, so some things don't really change."
Even if it is something as simple as putting a new condiment on the table, I think we should all add new tastes and flavors to our holiday table. My family seems to prefer their old favorites, but I think a few new items on the groaning board keeps us from being old stick-in-the-muds. If, like me, you try to introduce something new into your holiday menus, Mario Batali Holiday Food is the perfect book to revitalize your old standbys.