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Family Coming To Town?

This tasty dish can be prepared ahead of time

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Almost everything about this time of year is a bundle of contradictions. Take giving and receiving, the two poles of the holiday experience. Both are fraught. Will the remote-control helicopter we splurged on for the kids actually fly? Was Uncle Dan seeking revenge when he gave the kids that annoying CD? Does my husband really think I look good in this reindeer sweater? Naturally, we parents love seeing our children’s excitement, but not frenzy or bitter disappointment.  

When it comes to bi-polarity, holiday hospitality is no exception. Hosting friends and family promises warmth and togetherness — until the big job of providing sustenance and amusement for houseguests becomes a reality. Restaurants are tempting when relatives come to stay. But keeping kids in line at the table is tough, especially when you’re also trying to keep the conversation going with Gram and Gramps. Yes, there’s always takeout, but it can get expensive.

So it really does make sense to feed people at home at least once or twice. I love to serve homemade food to my extended family. When I have a full house, though, and I don’t want to be barricaded in the kitchen, I cook before they come. A soup or stew made before guests arrive develops better flavor if kept in the fridge for a day or two. Or you can freeze it and defrost the day before serving.

As winter creeps in, nothing feels cozier in than a hit of tropical heat. In the spirit of holiday contradiction, then, try stewing up a pot of feijoada (pronounced “fay-JWA-da”), a Brazilian stew also made in Goa, a former Portuguese colony in southern India. This version’s curry powder and coconut milk lean it toward Asia. But in a nod to our local New Year’s traditions, this one is made with black-eyed peas, though kidney beans are good, too. Does it sound schizo? Great. Welcome to the holidays!

 

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