It’s how I roll

As a professional caterer for about ten years now, the Christmas holiday season has become more of a chore than a celebration. Whether I’m in a client’s home or our banquet facility, there are candy canes, mistle toe, fake gifts sitting under fake Christmas trees. From Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve, it’s 80-hour work weeks, eating the same “Holiday” food day in and day out (usually cold and leftovers from the buffet), and no family time to speak of. And then there’s the music.

The same tired old songs playing on a loop over and over and over again. Retail workers and package delivery drivers feel my pain. I have long envied the families and work groups I’ve catered to. Smiling and drinking because they’re happy, not necessarily because they’re overworked, tired and sore. They still have the Christmas spirit. I’m not talking about the birth of the Lord; I’m talking about the warm, fuzzy feeling from hanging out, baking, drinking or watching the Peanuts Christmas special on TV.

As a kid, like all kids I suppose, Christmas was my favorite holiday because of the gifts. Now, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Thanksgiving is sort of like the calm before the storm for me as a caterer. I know it’s coming, and I have time to mentally prepare. I go to Chattanooga to see my family; we exchange Christmas wish lists and sometimes exchange gifts. I hug and kiss everyone because I’m about to head down into the trenches of Christmas catering, only resurfacing Christmas Eve.

Another way I prepare is with my favorite wine that is released in limited quantities the week before Thanksgiving. It’s Georges Duboeuf’s Beaujolais nouveau. I am not a sommelier, but I know more now than I used to. But I always have and still buy wine according to two pieces of criteria: price and how pretty the label is.

In 2000 (Ironically, the year I began my catering career) I bought a bottle of wine because it fit my two criteria– it was inexpensive and colorfully packaged. It was the Beaujolais nouveau that I now consider to be my own private tradition.

For years I have anxiously stalked the liquor store clerks day after day beginning at Halloween.

“Is my wine in yet?” I say with a hopeful grin.

“Nope, any day now.”

I have been buying the Beaujolais nouveau right before Thanksgiving for years now–usually when we’re getting ready to decorate our tree. I force Hubby to listen to carols, wrap gifts reflect on the upcoming holiday seasons and look at photos from seasons past. This is my one chance to play the part and enjoy the season before I’m inundated with serving up all the food, song and drink that other people actually enjoy at this time of year.

Only last year did I discover that there’s actually a story to this wine. French government prohibits the Beaujolais from being corked prior to the third Thursday in November—hence my connection to it at Thanksgiving. Apparently, I was slow to get on the booze train because people all over have been privy to this.

There are “roll out” parties across the world and restaurants arrange special dinners to pair with the wine the day it’s released. I had no idea its arrival was celebrated by anyone but me. It’s almost as if I’ve suddenly joined a club or fraternity of sorts.

The wine is a red and best served slightly chilled (no more than 30 minutes in the fridge or an hour on the back porch on a chilly day). It pairs easily with almost any food, and is more of a pedestrian wine that’s easy to gulp than it is a “serious” wine that needs to have its bouquet discussed. It’s light and fun, like the holidays. (Please, no political discussions when I’ve got my glass of wine in hand.)

This year I plan on doing what I always do: enjoy my Thanksgiving with family, hug and kiss everyone goodbye for the next month and head down into the trenches of Christmas catering with January on my mind. This year, though, I think I’ll buy a whole case and share.

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~ by jessiekrueger on March 14, 2010.

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