This wasn't the plan. I sat down to write a year in review style post. Instead, I'm diverting my attention to this plate of leftovers in front of me—lamb meatballs simmered for six hours with wine and shallots, butternut squash with tahini, and latkes à la Yotam Ottolenghi. My sister-in-law, who came for the holidays, flew back home two days ago and my brother, who also came to visit, is at my mom's house. On the 24th, we crowded into my kitchen, put on a throwback jams playlist, and spent all day dancing and making a royal feast for twenty (we were five). Sarah, a prolific baker, made brown-butter snickerdoodles and peppermint bark. Adam and I cooked our greatest hits. We played Cards Against Humanity by candlelight when the power in my building went out. It was perfect. And now my home feels oddly cavernous, as it always does when good company leaves.
A year in review. The idea made sense to me in 2015. I got married and traveled half-way across the world, twice. People threw parties for me just because I found someone special to do life with. Those events were easy to write about, to package into a few short paragraphs with photos and life-affirming statements. 2016 has been different, less tangible, more about learning than doing. This year I've changed my career path twice; I've learned that I want to write a book and that I want to teach. I've given serious thought to living abroad, been too hard on myself but tried my best to forgive, stopped apologizing for the things I want, and accepted that my skin will never grow thick enough to protect me from every little snub and sting.
Traveling, in its finest and most unencumbered moments, has a way of prompting those lessons. This year I went to New York for my sister-in-law's graduation, to Indiana and Chicago for my brother's birthday, and to Denver for another birthday of a dear friend. Adam and I spent three weeks in Japan, in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Hiroshima. I've sought good and beautiful things, like the most luscious ramen I've ever tasted in Tokyo and the Manhattan skyline at dusk. I've embraced the unfamiliar, felt out of place in a way that was freeing rather than disorienting. I watched an American presidential election unfold in a Japanese hotel room on Japanese CNN and discovered that I am, to everyone's surprise, crazy about Chicago deep dish pizza. And I've been kicked swiftly in the rear, thwacked over the head by small revelations I didn't see coming—about what I want out of the next few years and the type of person I hope I'm becoming.
2016 offered other, more practical lessons too. I can confidently say, for instance, that I am no longer afraid of the Manual setting on my camera. I've also, finally, made up my mind about roast chicken, having tried the recipes of every culinary authority I love and trust in an effort to find what I deem to be the perfect roast chicken (according to me, that is). Also—did you know that linguine with clams (or linguine alla vongole or whatever you choose to call it) is the most straight-forward, turns-out-right-every-time pasta dish to make? I didn't. I thought surely there must be some voodoo magic involved in something this good. Not so, reader. Thank you, Alice Waters, for unlocking the secret to linguine alla vongole—which is that there is no secret. Only that beautiful broth, which tastes like a bright, silky white-wine cloud from seafood heaven.
I suppose we'll have to consider this my (unofficial and imperfect) year in review post, reader. Happy New Year. I hope you're celebrating warmly and with good people tonight. Here's to a year with less existential dread and more zen, food that satisfies, meaningful work, good skin, good books, friends who love you enough to not stand for your sh&!, and more revelatory kicks in the rear, even if they hurt a little. That's, at least, what I'm hoping for.