As many of you know (or might have guessed from my last post), I visited my family in Austria just a few weeks ago. My last trip was in spring of 2013, and was a bit of a whirlwind involving a van full of friends and a trek across the country. Comparatively, this most recent trip was quite a bit more laid-back, with the largest thing on the agenda being my grandmother’s 80th birthday at one of the many the local Buschenshanks, or wine taverns. The party lasted until 1am, complete with a ton of food, dancing, and live music courtesy of my great uncle Franz and his friend Rudy.
My family’s hometown is what one might refer to as rural. It’s not out of the ordinary for people to have livestock on their property, and unpaved roads are somewhat commonplace. Cellphone service can be quite spotty, as it’s so close to the Hungarian border that you could easily stumble across it without realizing. Güssing, a relatively small town of approximately 250 households, is honestly quite hard to find on a map. But, like most of Europe, it boasts a rich history, as is evident by the ruins of the 13th century castle that overlook the town. For me, it’s always been a place to unplug and indulge in some nostalgia. I ate my favorite foods and read half a dozen books in my grandmother’s kitchen. I know that change is guaranteed each visit, as my trips have gotten so few and far between as I’ve gotten older.
Yes, they wore lederhosen. It’s almost a requirement when playing that much polka music.
I try to appreciate Güssing for what it is. It’s especially quiet and charming during the winter months, when you can find Christmas markets in just about every town in the neighboring region. While we may have high-speed internet here in the Bay Area, they have warm mugs of Glühwein and roasted chestnuts on every corner, which is a fair trade-off, in my humble opinion. It’s very much a place to reset, indulge a bit, and contemplate life(or in my case, attempt to revive some very rusty German…more on this later). It may not be the most glamorous or exotic of vacations, but it’s special nonetheless.
We’ve finally made it to the Holidays! I know some of you eager beavers already have your Christmas trees up (to each his own), but I couldn’t be more surprised that it’s already that time of year again. The cold has finally hit California, and I’m currently writing to you wearing a down vest while wrapped in a heated blanket, so it certainly is starting to feel like that time of year.
Holidays are unique in the way that they’re marked by tradition. Everyone expects their family to gather around the dining room table covered in perfectly prepared food like some sort of Norman Rockwell painting. With the holidays becoming increasingly commercialized, the concept of family is pushed in everyone’s face so constantly it sometimes feels exhausting. Somewhere along the line, someone decided that it was tradition to spend this time of the year with family. But, what if your family doesn’t look like everyone else’s? What if your family is an ocean away? You might even have the kind of family that could care less about Thanksgiving. What if it’s just you? It’s all too common to feel a bit down about this, but if no one else has told you, that’s entirely ok. I like to think that this time can be wonderful for making new traditions.
I had the pleasure of attending the first of many Friendsgivings this past Saturday.
Photo c/o Erin Moss. “It’s awful, man…these girls keep making me take pictures of them!”
In my humble opinion, the idea of Friendsgiving is pure genius! Everyone brings their favorite dish, potluck-style and presto! You have an amazing Thanksgiving dinner. On Saturday we had roasted turkey, crock pot mac n’ cheese, brussels sprout gratin, and much more. One guest brought homemade bread and a chocolate-pecan-bourbon pie. Amazing! I ate so much I instantly regretted the jeans I had decided to wear that evening. Alternatively, at a Friendsgiving I celebrated with the boss lady and my longtime friend Sarah just yesterday, we simply hit the hot bar at Whole Foods for all of our Thanksgiving meal goodies. We topped this off with pumpkin whoopie pies, apple cider mimosas, and had a party! I realize that this is a lot of Thanksgiving-style food to consume in advance of Thanksgiving proper, but hey! No one would argue with me when I say it’s pretty darn delicious. I’m heading down the coast first thing tomorrow to officially celebrate Thanksgiving with my dear friends in San Luis Obispo. It’s a little less than “traditional,” but it’s become our tradition over the years. Sometimes new traditions can be the best of all!
Hope everyone has a happy Thanksgiving!