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Evolving Winter Traditions


As I write this letter, we are smack-dab in the middle of two of the most food-and-family-centered holidays in many households: Thanksgiving and Christmas. But of course this year is different, and we’re all learning how to keep family traditions alive despite being apart.

It was my 77-year-old mom who came up with the technologically savvy idea that saved Thanksgiving for our family. “Let’s do a baking edition of our weekly Zoom call on Sunday,” she suggested. “We can make sausage bread.” My mom got her hot Italian sausage bread recipe from her friend, Betty Pedotto, when the two young moms met in a Cincinnati suburb and discovered a shared love for baking. It was a new taste for my Irish family, but we loved it and it became a Thanksgiving morning staple. So, Mom texted me and my three sisters the recipe, and a few days later sent a shopping reminder. 

That Sunday, we all logged on and made bread together — for the first time ever (someone was always missing when we did it in person). It was such a success that we did another baking Zoom two weeks later, but this time we made Christmas cookies. It was the first time since college that I’d made cookies with my mom and sisters, and it was really sweet. We all marveled that it took a pandemic to bring us together again, and we agreed that it would become our new way of holiday baking.

Another tradition that was big when I was growing up in Michigan, was hunting. It was never shocking to see a bunch of kids absent for a few days before Thanksgiving break; hunting season had begun. Venison wasn’t a staple in our house, but when I read this issue’s article on the lean, protein-rich meat— and all of the places in the Hudson Valley that can help you get it to your table — it did make me think about adding it to my menu.

For our cover story this month, writer Mike Diago focuses on another food tradition: making mole. For the story, he spoke with two women of Mexican heritage who are keeping their recipes and cultural traditions alive, now that they live in the Hudson Valley. Their stories of bringing the food that they grew up with to their new home is universally appealing — and may just make you want to visit Mill Street in Newburgh to try an authentic mole and start a new winter tradition of your own.

Hudson Valley Restaurant Week is back this April 8-21!