We spend the last day of the year preparing gift boxes for friends who live in Madison. The boxes contain foods auspicious for the New Year, including tamales, black-eyed peas, lentils, collard greens, sauerkraut, lentils, oranges, pomegranate seeds, grapes, miniature bundt cakes, bretzels, soba noodles, kinpira, kuromame, smoked herring, and pulled pork. We will deliver them on the first day of 2021, along with virtual good wishes to friends around the world.


Laurie Beth reads The Dreamers by Karen Walker Thompson It’s the second pandemic novel she reads in 2020. The first (Song for a New Day, logged on 19 May) she reads intentionally for its pandemic content and talks about incessantly for a couple of months. The second catches her by surprise as she picks it at random from a list of books recommended by friends that happen to be available electronically from the public library when she finishes her previous novel. In this plot, college students in a small town in Southern California are the first to succumb to a mysterious sleeping sickness. The town is promptly closed off from the world and the plot is as much about that isolation as it is about the illness, which ends as inexplicably as it begins.


In December we cook:

  • Baby Gem Lettuce with Charred Eggplant Yogurt, Smacked Cucumber, and Shatta (Falastin)
  • Charred Eggplant with Tahini and Herbs (Falastin)
  • Kofta with Tahini, Potato, and Onion (Falastin)
  • Labneh (Falastin)
  • Lentils with Tahini and Crispy Onions (Falastin)
  • Meat Dimplings in Yogurt Sauce (Falastin)
  • Molokhieh Soup with Fava Beans (Falastin)
  • Preserved Stuffed Eggplants (Falastin)
  • Roasted Baby Carrots with Harissa and Pomegranate (Ottolenghi Simple)
  • Roasted Eggplant with Tamarind and Cilantro (Falastin)
  • Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Dip (Falastin)
  • Roasted Squash and Zucchini with Whipped Feta and Pistachios (Falastin)
  • Spinach and Toasted Orzo with Dill and Chile Yogurt (Falastin)
  • Stuffed Sardines with Spicy Tomato Dagga (Falastin)
  • Stuffed Turnips with Turkey, Freekah, and Spicy Tamarind Sauce (Falastin)
  • Sweet and Spicy Seeds and Nuts (Falastin)
  • Trout Tartare with Browned Butter and Pistachios (Ottolenghi Simple)
  • Yogurt-Roasted Cauliflower with Quick-Pickled Chilies, Golden Raisin, and Red Onions (Falastin)

Please note that these lists include only the recipes that appear in the cookbooks we purchased in 2020. They do not include again as many recipes found online (especially from Serious Eats and the New York Times), none of the recipes in the 200+ cookbooks we already owned, and not any of the meals we prepared without using recipes at all. Nor does not it take into account any of the baking Michael did which is handled in other types of posts. Still they give a good sense of just how well we are eating during the pandemic.


We order a goose online during Hanukah and it arrives in time to cook for Christmas. Goose is a traditional food for both holidays. A goose provides very little, very dark meat and a lot of fat. We eat ours with potatoes fried in goose fat and an Alsatian red cabbage, apple and chestnut recipe.


Wisconsin supreme court justice Shirley Abrahamson dies today. Though we did not know her personally, she has been our down-the block neighbor for the 30 years that we have lived on Waunona Way. In 1976, she was the first woman to be appointed to the Wisconsin supreme court, she serves until 2015 when she is 82 years old. Though initially appointed to finish a term, she is subsequently elected and re-elected for three ten year terms, never running unopposed and serving as chief justice starting in 1996.


We celebrate Barley’s first birthday with a trip to our favorite dog park. Though he is conceived, born, promised and delivered to us before the pandemic, he arrives at our house just two weeks before the lockdowns and thus has a life very similar to other pandemic puppies. He does not understand that people go to work without him!


In our marathon screening of The Great British Baking Show, we finally arrive in the present season–the one we have heard is filmed in a bubble. In the first episode , the youngest contestant (who will go on to win) tells Paul that he has been watching and baking along with the show for half of his life. We’re disappointed how little the procedural differences in the show are part of the program. We have loads of questions but most especially about how far apart the episodes are being filmed and where the contestants are practicing their bakes (some answers here). It’s really only in the last episode, when production staff replace families at the final picnic, that we are shown a real difference in the program, but that scene is incredibly moving.