Nancy reindeer

As I look at this picture of me hugging the topiary reindeer at the Ridgedale Mall, I'm hoping I remembered to use hand sanitizer before and after my photo opp.

Every December for the past few years my husband and I have spent a whirlwind Christmas in NYC, scouting out new restaurants, sitting in the audience of at least one Broadway play, standing in the frigid weather to get into the Blue Note to hear Chris Botti’s New Year's Eve holiday show and viewing as much museum art as humanly possible. Sigh. That tradition has been broken this year.

And since my kids all live in states with higher Covid-19 rates than even here, I won’t be invited to visit them either. Needless to say—but I’m going to say it anyway—this is not a family-friendly situation we’re existing in right now, which is compounded even more since restaurants have always been their employees’ second family.

Holidays tend to be stressful as relatives are forced to mingle peacefully together. And nuclear families—I’ve always loved that word to describe our basic social unit—are made even more volatile by the addition of extended and blended family members. And now we’ll be adding different takes on mask-etiquette and hugging to the mix.

Ironically, Thanksgiving is the bigger travel date than Christmas. According to the United States Department of Transportation’s holiday travel statistics, travel to a destination 50 miles or more away increased by 54 percent over the Thanksgiving weekend and is predicted to be only by 23 percent during Christmas and New Year’s.

While the hotel industry isn't seeing a lot of business travelers during this time, it may see an uptick during the holidays as families who are going to see loved ones opt to stay in a hotel rather than in cramped quarters at grandmother's house with the ancient HVAC system.

Since I won't be enjoying Christmas brunch at Norma's this year, I’ll be shopping the various holiday meal offerings out there by our illustrious restaurant community and eating a variety of them in the same four walls I’ve been staring at since February.

I'm always impressed with the creativity and imagination in our local market (why did I think I needed to go to NYC to find a great holiday experience?).

We had duck confit for Thanksgiving (a fowl by any other name still smells as sweet) and sweet potato pie from Rush City Bakery. It’s expensive to have a frozen pie mailed to you, but in this case worth every dollar.

In the new normal, where we’ve all had to pivot more times than a ballerina in The Nutcracker Suite, we’re constantly looking at new ways to do old things.

That also holds true for Foodservice News, as I have to adjust the way I gather news. For instance, in the past it was fairly easy to get people to respond to my Server Speak question. But in the current atmosphere, where we're all a bit suspicious about who might be a carrier, it's uncomfortable to approach people in a mask and pull them away from work to take their picture and ask a question. I so appreciate when people are agreeable, and defeated when I'm turned down. There's a reason I didn't go into sales; I don't cope well with rejection.

One of the great joys of my job has always been travel, even if it's just to a far-flung suburb to interview an interesting person in-person. I miss seeing people's expression when they tell their story, and it's hard to write "he said, a sly smile spreading across his handsome face," when you don't even have the eyes to go by. ...OK, maybe it's a good thing I can't say that.

Attached to this issue, you'll also receive our polybagged present to you, our annual Chef's Dish book filled with personal revelations and recipes.

I am feeling blessed this holiday season because we not only have a Charlies Podcast series to unveil this month, but 11 more issues for 2021, and 2021 has to be better, right? Right?

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