An Unforgettable Holiday Centerpiece – The New York Times

Good morning. Gabrielle Hamilton wrote a lovely piece for The Times this week, about end-of-year extravagances — caviar sandwiches and homemade Boston cream doughnuts and the like — and particularly about the whole roast suckling pig (above) she has at one holiday party a year — “with its crackling skin so crisp it sounds as if you are cutting a loaf of bread, and its profoundly sticky, ribbon-soft, milky meat.”

The recipe is just great: honest and clear, a builder of confidence. I don’t know that you’ll be able to get yourself a 15-pounder before Christmas dinner calls, but you sure can by New Year’s Eve and ought to, for the delight in consuming such an easily prepared, visually stunning meal.

Oh, I hear you. It can be strange, to cook this particular animal in the round, to pose it like a sleeping Labrador puppy in your largest roasting pan, then slide it into a hot oven. But unless you’re a vegetarian or vegan, it is likely just a psychological hiccup, to feel so unsettled. Not a month ago you cooked a whole turkey in the same pan! And you cannot have it both ways. Gabrielle again: “I think that the virtuous frown on hypocrisy more than they frown on conscientious protein consumption.”

For dinner tonight, though, consider a meal that steers in the opposite direction from pork.

You might try this terrific vegetarian mushroom shawarma, with a turmeric-tinged yogurt sauce, and lots and lots of cilantro and mint. Or maybe a big bowl of linguine with crisp chickpeas and rosemary? It’s never not a good time to eat a big salad with grains.

Then! Tuesday’s Christmas Eve, usually a tourtière night in the Sifton household, with cranberry ketchup and Dolly Parton singing “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town.” We’ll gather around the tree in the morning to eat cold oranges while unwrapping gifts. Mushroom Wellington for lunch? How fun would that be! And will someone bake dirty chai earthquake cookies in the afternoon? Here’s hoping!

There are thousands and thousands of recipes to cook tonight — or tomorrow, whenever you like — waiting for you on NYT Cooking. Go take a look at them and see what inspires joy. (Perhaps you need some ideas for Hanukkah eats.)

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Now, it’s not anything to do with food or drink, but I loved this cool story in The Times by Christopher R. Weingarten, about My Chemical Romance’s 2006 concept album “The Black Parade,” and the music that fueled it — and was inspired by it.

Of course you want to read Chloe Malle’s profile of Greta Gerwig, in Vogue. You’re going to go see “Little Women” on Wednesday night, right?

The death of Larry Heinemann last week, at 75, compels me to recommend to you his 1986 novel, “Paco’s Story,” which won the National Book Award for fiction the next year.

Finally, Popular Mechanics on the geometry of present-wrapping is not just super interesting, but immensely helpful. Deploy your new knowledge, and I’ll see you on Christmas morning.

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