How to Celebrate Everything

Recipes and Rituals for Birthdays, Holidays, Family Dinners, and Every Day In Between

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A New York Times Best Cookbook of Fall 2016 • A warm and inviting guide to turning birthdays, holidays, and everyday occasions into cherished traditions, with more than 100 time-tested recipes—from the creator of the popular blog and book Dinner: A Love Story and author of the New York Times bestseller Dinner: The Playbook
 
“Families crave rituals,” says Jenny Rosenstrach, and by rituals she means not just the big celebrations—Valentine’s Day dinners, Mother’s Day brunches, Halloween send-offs, Thanksgiving feasts, holiday cocktail parties—but the little ones we may not even realize are rituals: a platter of deluxe nachos on Super Bowl Sunday, or a bowl of creamy mashed potatoes after every braces-tightening session. Whether simple or elaborate, daily or annual, these rituals all serve the same purpose for Rosenstrach: to bring comfort, connection, and meaning to every day. 
 
100+ recipes, including:
• popovers, apple fritters, and golden pancakes, perfect for sleepover mornings or birthday breakfasts
• “Interfaith Sliders”: one version with ham and another with brisket
• Rosenstrach’s legendary chocolate Mud Cake—plus an entire section on birthdays, including a one-size-fits-all party planner that does not rely on pizza
• complete menus for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve
• and, of course, dozens of Rosenstrach’s signature family dinners: Grilled Soy-Glazed Pork Chops, Harissa Roasted Chicken, Crispy Chickpeas with Yogurt Sauce and Naan, Grilled Spicy Shrimp Tacos with Avocado Butter and Summer Cabbage, and more
 
In this digital, overscheduled age, How to Celebrate Everything helps families slow down, capture the moments that matter—and eat well while doing it.

Praise for How to Celebrate Everything
 
“I have been an ardent fan of Jenny Rosenstrach’s beautiful writing for years. I always know that every word of her books will be something to savor, and How to Celebrate Everything will strike a chord with anyone who enjoys family, friends, and delicious food.”—Ree Drummond, New York Times bestselling author of The Pioneer Woman Cooks

“Enjoy How to Celebrate Everything for the easy-to-follow recipes. But even more satisfying are the wonderful anecdotes of family life and [Jenny Rosenstrach’s] genial examination of the lasting role that food plays in our lives beyond the plate.”Family Circle (September “What We’re Reading” Pick)
 
“With characteristic warmth and humor, [Rosenstrach] urges readers to ritualize and celebrate the small moments in family life by sharing stories from her own. . . . Rosenstrach is a skilled storyteller and introduces each occasion with an engaging essay before offering up the much-loved recipes that inspired it. . . . A delicious and delightful ode to the ways family and food intertwine, reinforcing each other.”Booklist
 
“Featured recipes are proven kid friendly and presented with humorous mommy angst and nostalgic commentary . . . Rosenstrach inspires, reminding us that the real celebration is family itself.”Publishers Weekly
 
“This well-designed cookbook comes with a side helping of lifestyle inspiration.”Library Journal

Under the Cover

An excerpt from How to Celebrate Everything

INTRODUCTION
 
WHY RITUALS?
 
“Babies crave routines.”
 
This is what the pediatrician told my husband, Andy, and me on a winter day in 2002, one week after I gave birth to our first daughter, Phoebe. We were unshowered and exhausted, running primarily on new-baby adrenaline, but thirteen years later I can hear those words as though he were standing right in front of me. If I were making a movie of my parenting life, it would be the scene that’s revisited throughout the film, fuzzy, sepia-tinted, maybe even in slow motion.
 
Of course, to a rookie mom and dad, who might’ve paid a small fortune just to sleep for two straight hours, the concept of a routine seemed laughable. (At that point, the concept of ever watching another twenty-four-minute episode of The Larry Sanders Show seemed laughable.) But sure enough, it wasn’t long before we’d regained the semblance of a schedule: I’d nurse the baby every three hours; she’d take two naps, a long one in the morning and a short one in the afternoon. Before bedtime, there’d be a rousing rendition of “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain” from our Music Together CD, followed by a story in the rocking chair, and a final round of nursing. (Or, as Andy used to call it, “The Knockout Blow.”) As soon as Phoebe was safely down for the count, we’d pour ourselves a glass of wine and (ahhh) make dinner.
 
I don’t mean to suggest those early days were perfect pictures of order and calm—quite the opposite, in fact, especially after her sister, Abby, showed up twenty months later, bent on upending all notions of twenty-first-century civilized living. But feeding, sleeping, making dinner, sacrificing any shred of dignity in the name of eliciting a giggle—those were the main dots to connect in the course of our days with babies and, later, with toddlers. It was rarely a straight line from one dot to the next, and it rarely resulted in a pretty picture, but the dots were our guides, our goals. Without them, without the routine, there was nothing preventing us from descending into a state of chaos.
 
Thirteen years later—different dots, different pictures—I find the doctor’s advice as resonant as ever. The babies—and in our case, the babies’ parents—still crave routines. We like knowing that gym is on Tuesday (wear sneakers) and art is on Thursdays (wear clothes you won’t mind ruining). We like knowing that Mom works from home on Wednesdays. We like knowing that allowance comes on Fridays. We like knowing that the school bus will pull up to the corner at eight fifteen sharp and that dinner will happen around seven o’clock. In short, we like knowing that we have some measure of control over things. (Even though deep down, we also know that this control rides side by side with denial.)
 
And yet, more than a dozen years into this parenting thing, I’m tempted to amend the doctor’s advice a bit. If I were a pediatrician, and not a—ahem—food blogger, this is what I’d tell parents, the rookies and the vets, about my own experience:
 
Babies crave routines. Families crave rituals.
 
If routines are about keeping our family from going off the rails, rituals are about infusing those routine days with meaning.
 
Let’s take that morning bus, for instance. Catching it when the girls were in elementary school was never easy. Never! Invariably, with five minutes left on the clock, we’d be turning the house upside down in search of a missing glove or workbook. Every morning we had to remind the girls to pack-your-bag-brush-your-teeth-grab-your-lunch, to hurry up already with the slo-mo loop-de-loop shoe tying. (And every morning, I’d wind up screaming Good Lord! You’d think we didn’t do this whole thing yesterday! Then immediately hate myself.) It was during this seven-year stretch that I developed my superior talent as permission-slip-signing speed-walker.
 
But once we were finally out the door and safely headed in the right direction, I loved our bus stop ritual. Wow, did I love it. On the way to the pickup corner, we’d walk by a yellowing maple in the fall, a row of exploding magnolia trees in the spring, and thickets of honeysuckle bushes in June. We’d meet up with seven or eight other families, who, all told, counted four dogs (including Iris, our Boston terrier) and almost a dozen kids. As soon as everyone heard the rumbling of the bus as it struggled to make it up the hill, the kids, all wearing giant backpacks that threatened to topple them, would line up on the corner like little robots, knees rising as high as their chests as they took that first step aboard. The parents, some clutching coffee mugs and wearing ski jackets over pajamas, some suited up and ready for their walk to the commuter train, all searched the darkened windows for their kids, waved goodbye like maniacs, then hung around to chat with one another while the dogs tangled leashes and licked each other.
 
So, you might be thinking, that sounds a lot like my morning routine. How does something as mundane as walking to the bus stop qualify as meaningful? How does it get promoted to the status of ritual?
 
I’ll tell you how. Standing out there on that corner year after year, we watched the neighborhood kids sprout before our eyes, evolving from princesses into tomboys and then back again. We laughed at the boys who insisted on wearing shorts on frigid winter days, and at the parents who were powerless to control it. We pretended not to care too much when the kids grew out of kissing us goodbye. We coordinated playdates and dinner parties, shared vacation plans, and swapped Twitter handles. We discussed why the cheese shop in town was closing, when the Halloween parade started, who the new permanent third-grade sub was, and everything else that passed for big news in our small-town New York suburb. On the first and last days of school, at least one person had a camera, and multiple photos were taken of the bus-boarders, even though I knew that, by doing so, we were only setting ourselves up for heartbreak down the road. Look how teeny you were! That was your first day of first grade! Look at Piper when she was just a puppy! Remember those silver sandals you wore every day? (Excuse me while I start weeping on my keyboard.)
 
In other words, the school bus send-off transcended routine because it connected us to something larger. It connected us to our community in a way that, I later realized, would be hard to replicate once there was no more bus to catch. Mostly, though, it connected us as a family. As harried as we felt, as chaotic as the workday ahead of us promised to be, we started off every morning together. From beginning to end, I’d estimate that bus stop ritual lasted under eight minutes each day, but it was pretty much guaranteed that at one point during those eight minutes, a little hand would mindlessly reach up and latch on to mine. (This, in spite of my best Cruella De Vil impersonation only minutes earlier.) That gesture alone put enough fuel in the happy tank to power an entire day at the office.
 
My family craves rituals. Some of them, like walking to the bus stop, are simple, daily, and downright random. Others, like cooking Thanksgiving dinner with my mother, “Grandma Jody,” or baking Christmas cookies with Andy’s mom, “Grandma Hubba,” are big, huge, once-a-year food-related rituals attached to big, huge, once-a-year holidays. One ritual, family dinner (which is also the subject of my blog, Dinner: A Love Story), is so fundamental to the psychological health of our household that we think of it as our North Star, something worth organizing our days—maybe even our lives—around.
 
Whether they’re big or small, simple or elaborate, daily or yearly, all our rituals serve the same purpose: They bring comfort, connection, and meaning to our days, days that might otherwise just wind up blurring together. On a daily basis, rituals help me answer the questions that are central to my life as a parent: How do we help our children recognize things that matter? How do we teach them to be grateful for everything they have—not the latest Nike Free Runs, but friends and family and community? How do we make days feel special? How do we hold on to moments that are so easily lost in the jam-packed calendar, that disappear behind us like a jet trail?
 
This book is about the importance of rituals and celebrations in our family, and I hope it serves as a blueprint for starting rituals and optimizing celebrations in yours. For us, it’s about waking up on our birthdays to a Big Deal Breakfast (homemade waffles with berries and whipped cream for Abby; sausage-and-egg biscuits for Andy). It’s about eating Phoebe-invented butter-fried, cinnamon-dusted pineapple chunks every New Year’s Eve and a Jenga-like platter of deluxe nachos every Super Bowl. It’s about walking to the farmer’s market every Saturday morning from June through November and, season permitting, collecting all the ingredients for a proper tomato sandwich that we will devour for lunch later that afternoon. It’s about serving creamy, comforting mashed potatoes after every braces-tightening visit to the orthodontist. It’s about the post-dinner concert ritual—laying down a strand of Christmas lights around the perimeter of the upstairs hall to create a “stage,” then being treated to “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” an a capella Taylor Swift ballad, or a Neil Young air guitar solo with a tennis racket. (Wow, do I miss those days.) It’s very much about the box of Pop-Tarts Andy throws in the cart as soon as we begin grocery shopping for the vacation rental: The kids aren’t allowed to eat Pop-Tarts for breakfast in their regular lives, and the thrill they get from breaking this rule reminds us that the point of vacation is inserting happiness wherever you can, and getting as far away from your daily routine as possible.
 

- About the author -

Jenny Rosenstrach is the creator of Dinner: A Love Story, the award-winning website devoted to family dinner, and the New York Times bestselling author of Dinner: A Love Story (Ecco), Dinner: The Playbook (Ballantine), and How to Celebrate Everything (Ballantine). She was the features director at Cookie magazine for four years and special projects editor at Real Simple for six. Her essays and articles have appeared in numerous national publications and anthologies, including The New York Times Book ReviewReal SimpleMartha Stewart LivingWhole Living, and the op-ed page of The New York Times. She has appeared on NPR’s Weekend Edition and NBC’s Today. She and her husband, Andy Ward, write the Providers column for Bon Appétit. They live with their two daughters in Westchester County, New York.

Jenny Rosenstrach is available for select readings and lectures. To inquire about a possible appearance, please contact Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau at speakers@penguinrandomhouse.com or visit www.prhspeakers.com.

More from Jenny Rosenstrach

How to Celebrate Everything

Recipes and Rituals for Birthdays, Holidays, Family Dinners, and Every Day In Between

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How to Celebrate Everything

— Published by Ballantine Books —