In the northern hemisphere where winter has drenched the landscape with blankets of snow, New Year’s Eve will be celebrated indoors with dishes believed to bring good luck in the coming year. In the tropics, it is the ideal time to set up a table outdoors and gather around the grill. Lots of families will be barbecuing and enjoying grilled food with beer.
Yes, beer. Mostly. The Philippines is a Third World country. While on one end of the economic spectrum, five per cent or so of the population will greet the New Year with champagne, caviar and foie gras, on the other end of the spectrum, the rest will be happy just for the chance to get together over skewered meat and an abundant supply of San Miguel beer. There will be spaghetti too for the kids, most likely the kind with sweetened tomato sauce and sliced hotdogs.
I come from somewhere between the two ends of the economic spectrum. Growing up, Christmas Eve was spent with my father’s family while New Year’s Eve was celebrated with my mother’s family. I don’t remember champagne nor beer figuring in New Year’s Eve celebrations. But there was food. Lots of food. Always. After marriage and the subsequent move to the suburb, we began a unique New Year’s Eve tradition—roast duck. Alex and I were talking about it just a few days ago. She couldn’t recall what we ate on New Year’s Eve prior to the move to the suburb but she distinctly remembers roast duck after that.
I understand that most families recreate New Year’s Eve meals they enjoyed as children, but I’ve always believed it is more of a nostalgia and feel-good thing rather than real love for the dishes that they grew up with. I’m not one for traditions; if we follow tradition, it has to be a tradition that we created. And that comes with the caveat that we can always modify or completely overhaul the tradition should our food preferences or eating habits change. When Sam turned vegetarian, roast duck on New Year’s Eve became an option rather than a tradition. Last year, we had a mix of meat and seafood dishes. As a concession, Sam does eat seafood on special occasions like birthdays, Christmas and New Year.
This year, we’re going back to our New Year’s Eve roast duck tradition. We’ll also be having seafood and side salads. And cocktails. And sparkling wine.
What about you? Are you serving a traditional New Year’s Eve menu? Or are you going modern and cosmopolitan by serving finger foods and cocktails? If you are, here are some ideas for finger foods that are easy to prepare. Yes, “easy to prepare” is important so you can have time to enjoy the New Year’s Eve party too.
Tuna and cheese pimiento canapés
Salami and cucumber mini-sandwiches
Smoked salmon and cream cheese canapés
Baked mussels with butter and cheese
Baked mussels with lemon-garlic sauce
Chinese Pearl Balls
Fried Pork Spring Rolls (Lumpiang Shanghai)
Salmon and tuna sashimi
And, for the drinks… I’m sure that you don’t want to spend the night mixing drinks for your guests. So, here’s the trick. Choose two to three cocktail drinks and mix them in punch bowls and let everyone refill their own glasses. Here are some ideas.
Happy New Year!