Just in case you are going to have a celebration at your house this New Year's Eve to ring in 2013, I have a simple recipe for an appetizer that will delight your guests.
But before I get started, how many of you know how New Year's Eve came into existence? I certainly didn't know, so here's a brief history. The celebration of the new year on January 1st is a relatively new phenomenon. The earliest recording of a new year celebration is believed to have been in Mesopotamia, c. 2000 B C. and was celebrated around the time of the vernal equinox, in mid-March. A variety of other dates tied to the seasons were also used by various ancient cultures.
The first time the new year was celebrated on January 1st was in Rome in 153 B.C.( In fact, the month of January did not even exist until around 700 B.C., when the second king of Rome, Numa Pontilius, added the months of January and February.) The new year was moved from March to January because that was the beginning of the civil year, the month that the two newly elected Roman consuls-- the highest officials in the Roman republic--began their tenure. But this new year date was not always strictly and widely observed, and the new year was still sometimes celebrated on March 1.
In 1582, Gregorian calendar reform restored January 1 as new year's day. Although most Catholic countries adopted the Gregorian calendar almost immediately, it was only gradually adopted among Protestant countries. The British for example, did not adopt the reformed calendar until 1752. Until then, the British Empire--and their American colonies--still celebrated the new year in March.
I know none of you knew my mother, Dot, but believe me when I say, she was "a hot ticket", and besides that, she loved New Year's Eve. Growing up in the 20 and 30's, New Year's Eve was a big deal. That was the Big Band Era, and my mother and father loved to dance to Benny Goodman, Harry James, and all the other Big Bands, especially on New Year's Eve,
Even after my father died, my mother still continued to go out on New Year's Eve until she was in her 80's. One year when she was around 78, I asked what her plans were for New Year's. I almost dropped dead when she told me that she and 4 of her friends were taking a limo to Worcester, Ma. to some hotel to celebrate New Year's Eve. Why Worcester? I have no idea; who goes Worcester for New Year's Eve? The only explanation that I can think of, is that this particular hotel must have had a special deal- dinner, dancing, and drinks- for older people who loved to celebrate New Year's Eve.
My mother worked hard all her life, but she knew how to have fun too. What a great lesson for all of us! Will I see you in Worcester?
Cheese Straws with Pimenton
Time : About 30 minutes
1/1/4 cups finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 sheets puff pastry (preferably all butter), defrosted but not unfolded
1/2 teaspoon pimenton (Spanish smoked paprika, hot or sweet) If you can't get it, use regular paprika.
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Sprinkle about 1/4 cup cheese on a clean work surface. Place pastry on top and sprinkle with another 1/4 cup cheese. Using a rolling-pin, to roll into a rectangle about 1/8-inch thick, dusting with more cheese, if necessary.
2. using a sharp knife, cut pastry into 1/2-inch wide strips. Lift up one end, twist a few times, and transfer to a prepared pan. Repeat with remaining pastry and cheese. Dust twists with pimenton.
3. Bake until puffed and golden, about 10 minutes. Let cool to room temperature before peeling off paper. Store between layers of parchment paper in an airtight container up to 2 days.
Yield: About 36
Happy New Year!