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Gift A Feast

Vinegar Valentines
By Gypsy Achong

Vinegar ValentinesValentine's Day hasn't always been about love, chocolate, and flowers, In fact, from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s, some people sent "Vinegar Valentines" to people they didn't approve of. Often sent anonymously, they provided a socially acceptable outlet to criticize, reject, and insult others.

Vinegar Valentines were the analog version of internet trolling, often employed in an attempt to enforce gender roles, fat-shame friends and strangers, poke at pretentious artists, and judge others for their "inappropriate" behavior.

Elaborately illustrated in full color, these hate-notes carried rude, hurtful messages such as,

To my Valentine:

'Tis a lemon that I hand you

And bid you now "skidoo,"

Because I love another --

There is no chance for you!

and

Showoff

You claim you're good at anything!

So, come on, show some proof

And let me see how good you are

At jumping off the roof!

If you want to read more about Vinegar Valentines and see lots of examples, check out this Slate article from Feb. 13, 2013, and this longer article in Collectors Weekly from the same month. If you want to send a sweet Valentine, check out our blog on recommendations for Valentine's Day gifts and our Valentine Day Feast, only available for Valentine's Day.

Our favorite dim sum restaurants in SF
By Gypsy Achong

Dim sum in San FranciscoWith Chinese New Year fast approaching (Feb. 8), we're reminded how much we love dim sum for brunch. In San Francisco, we are lucky to have several good options for this Cantonese cuisine that features bite-sized portions of food traditionally served in small steamer baskets or on small plates. A typical dim sum brunch might include steamed buns filled with barbecued pork; dumplings and rice noodle rolls filled with beef, chicken, pork, prawns, and vegetables; roasted spare ribs; tofu skin rolls; chinese sticky rice; and sesame balls. Rather than ordering from a menu, diners simply point to the dishes they want, as waiters present them tableside on wheeled carts.

Whether you're a dim sum virgin or an experienced regular, we recommend these local restaurants for consistently good food.

Wing Lee Bakery @ 503 Clement

Located in the Richmond district, across from Green Apple Books, this small take-out shop is similar to what you'll find in Chinatown, without the chaos. We're particularly fond of their har gow, a shrimp dumpling wrapped in a thin wheat starch skin. Bring cash, because they don't accept credit cards.

Yank Sing @ 101 Spear Street and 49 Stevenson Street.

This is the go-to dim-sum spot for folks in the Financial District and SOMA. Expect high quality, but don't expect Chinatown prices. You can make reservations online, where you'll also find a brief slideshow illustrating the Art of Eating Shanghai Dumplings.

Ton Kiang @ 5821 Geary Blvd.

Because they serve dim sum all day long, Ton Kiang is a great place to take kids for an early dinner. It's also a great place to meet other grown-ups for a hangover brunch, as their family-style tables will seat a sizable crowd.

Shanghai Dumpling King @ 696 Monterey Blvd.

While all the dishes at Shanghai Dumpling King are delicious, I must make a special mention of their Sugar Egg Puff, a sugar-sprinkled puffball filled with egg custard. If someone comes by with a platter of these, even at the beginning of the meal, take it. Trust me on this.  

New Year's resolutions
By Gypsy Achong

New Year's ResolutionsHow many New Year's Resolutions have you made? How many have you kept?

If you're like me, the answers are, "Too many to count," and "Not very many."

That's why, a few years ago, I decided to change the way I think about New Year's Resolutions. Instead of declaring that I will lose 15 pounds or cut sugar/gluten/alcohol from my diet, I make resolutions that will lead me to eat smarter and exercise more. Instead of vowing to work no more than 40 hours a week, I make resolutions that lead me to spend more time with family and friends. Here are some suggested New Year's Resolutions to consider for 2016.

Find a form of exercise you look forward to doing

If you dread going to the gym, find another way to break a sweat. Take a Bollywood dance class, or try your hand at Taiko drumming. Train for a century ride on your bicycle, or sign up for a triathlon prep class. Join an adult sports league or outrigger canoe club. Host a wii fit tennis tournament or dance party. The key is to try anything and everything that looks like it might be fun. When you find something you truly enjoy, you'll be more likely to find a way to work it into your regular schedule.

Try a new fruit, vegetable, grain, flavor, recipe, or cooking technique every week

Eating healthy requires eating a wide variety of foods, and I find that the bigger my culinary repertoire, the less likely I am to fall back on carb-heavy go-to dishes. As a result of experimentation with grains, I have discovered that my kids like quinoa at least as much as I do, and farro is delicious in almost any hearty stew. Omnivore Salt has become our family's new favorite condiment, and my husband will eat any vegetable I sprinkle it on. And when I use the Zoodler, my kids go gadzooks for zucchini.

Make a Play Schedule

If you truly want to work less and play more, schedule playtime on your calendar and treat it as you would a work meeting or deadline. A friend who loves to cook and spend time outdoors resolved to host 15 picnics in 2015. The final picnic is scheduled for the afternoon of New Year's Eve. Another friend signed up for a 6-week solo performance workshop and loved it so much she ended up writing and performing three one-woman shows before sold-out audiences. Yet another friend launched a weekly Happy Hour club, in which she sends out a group email each Wednesday with the name and address of a bar in the City. Anyone who wants to join her is invited to show up at that bar between 5 and 7 pm. No RSVPs are allowed, and the later you arrive, the more likely it is that the Happy Hour Club has disbanded or moved to a better bar.

Whatever you resolve to do, may all your New Year's Resolutions come true.

 

New Year's traditions around the world
By Gypsy Achong

New Year's TraditionsIf you live in - or hail from - the Southern United States, you probably eat pork, black-eyed peas and greens for good luck on New Year's Day. If you live in Charleston, South Carolina, you might have your pork and black-eyed peas in the form of Hoppin' John. And if you live anywhere else on the planet, you probably have your very own New Year's tradition to ensure that the coming year will be a good one. Here are a few of our favorite New Year's traditions from around the world. What are your favorites?

Lucky Foods

  • Dutch tradition: Eat ring-shaped treats (think donuts) to symbolize "coming full circle," leading to good fortune.

  • Spanish tradition: Eat 12 grapes at midnight.

  • Indian & Pakistani tradition: Eat rice for prosperity.

  • Jewish tradition (Rosh Hashanah): Eat apples dipped in honey.

  • Swiss tradition: Drop whipped cream on the floor (and leave it there) to symbolize the richness of the year to come.

Symbolic Gifts

  • Roman tradition: Give gilded nuts or coins to mark the new year. Would Rustic Bakery's cheese coins in our Feast of Appetizers count?

  • Persian tradition: Exchange eggs, the symbol of fertility

  • Scottish tradition: Exchange coal, shortbread and silverware for good luck.

Traditional Beverages

  • English/Gaelic tradition: Drink Wassail (a hot mulled cider) while wassailing (singing and drinking) to ensure a good cider apple harvest the following year

  • Dutch tradition: Make a toast with hot, spiced wine

Wishful Thinking

  • Colombian tradition: Carry an empty suitcase around the block to ensure a travel-filled year.

  • Danish tradition: Jump off a chair at midnight on New Year's Eve to banish bad spirits and bring good luck. Also, throw old plates and glasses against loved ones doors to welcome the new year.

  • Filipino tradition: To ensure prosperity in the New Year, display round fruits on the New Year's Eve dinner table and/or eat 12 fruits at midnight (grapes work), preferably while wearing polka dots.

  • South American tradition: Wear red underpants to attract love in the coming year, or yellow to attract money.

# # #

 

Family holiday traditions
By Gypsy Achong

Family holiday traditionsDo you have any holiday traditions that are unique to your family? If you're like most of my friends, your initial answer to that question is, "No. We just do all the regular holiday stuff."

That's was my response, until last week, when a friend told me about her family's holiday tradition, which she assumed was perfectly common.

Every December, her grandmother would make a gingerbread church, complete with stained glass sugar windows, icing-decorated trees, and a reindeer-powered sleigh with Santa holding the reins, leaving parallel tracks in a blanket of shredded coconut "snow." She and her cousins would admire it throughout the holidays, and on New Year's Day, they would all meet at Grandma's house to tear it down and eat it. It had never occurred to her that this was an unusual tradition until I burst into horrified laughter.

That's when I realized we all have traditions that are unique to our family. In my household, we host a Caribbean feast on Christmas Day, because that's what my grandmother always did. Another friend told me her aunt always makes an antipasti platter for Christmas Eve, and she can't get into the holiday spirit without rolled-up tubes of ham and salami. Yet another friend told me that his family goes out to dinner at a local café every Christmas Eve.

"Who does that?" I asked, before remembering my manners.

"I never really thought about it," he said. "It's just something we've always done.  It's not even a particularly good restaurant. But it's our tradition, and no one ever questions it."

I'm willing to bet that your family has some traditions that are - shall we say - outside the box. Maybe it's a special dish that always makes an appearance on the holiday buffet, even though everyone hates it. Perhaps it's an offensive version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, or a recycled gift - or joke - that just won't die.

Whatever it is, we'd love to hear about it. Please share your "only in our family" holiday traditions with us.

Happy Holidays!

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