December came in like a lion — both in Trieste and the US. Watching the “Nightly News” from the States, I see winter storm warnings and footage of cars spun out on the highway while outside my window the Bora is howling and sleet is pinging against my windows…Ahhh, 2020, getting your last licks in, I see.
Usually this time of year, the Christmas market huts are clustered in various corners of the city; Piazza della Borsa, Piazza Unita’, Piazza Sant’Antonio and the Feast of San Nicolo’ is in full swing in Viale XX Settembre. BUT NOT THIS YEAR!
This year there is no joy of strolling through town to do a little Christmas shopping. We are at a point where we realize we might be in the worse phase of the pandemic — where friends are now sick as well as people who live in our building creating an added sense of dread and hyper-vigilance– while living with the promise of the coming vaccine, some time in early 2021. Again, our lovely building neighbors are rallying to the aid of one resident afflicted by the virus, taking turns cooking, shopping and providing moral support.
It is definitely more difficult to harness “Christmas Cheer” and sing along with “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”. The frenzy of Christmas shopping, gift wrapping, designing and sending Christmas cards…all that has become frivolous, meaningless in the face of what we’ve all gone through.
This forced return to simpler times reminds me of Christmases when I was little. We’d hunker down at home, cook together making homemade cappelletti and broth, christmas cookies and preparing vin brule’, whose aroma of cinnamon and oranges would fill the house. Then we’d sit in front of the fireplace while my Dad would read fairytales out loud from the Brothers Grimm while we all sipped this rich sweet nectar from mismatched teacups. Usually by the end we’d be laughing uncontrollably at the fact that all the unfortunate characters were named “blockhead” while others were fast asleep; the magic of vin brule’…!
What is vin brule’? Essentially its mulled wine. Some say it originated in Ancient Rome, and was made with wine, honey and saffron. In the Middle Ages, a similar recipe was prepared called hippocras, using wine and spices.
Today mulled wine, also known as Glühwein, is drunk mostly in the countries of Northern Europe and North America, which have welcomed this mix of spices, citrus and wine to help face the cold days of winter. Throughout the rest of the world, mulled wine is typically sold and served at Christmas markets. It is also considered by some to be a “home remedy” to quiet coughs and soothe sore throats.
I’ve had many versions of it, but the sweet one is my favorite.
So this is my holiday gift to you, dear readers. The recipe for a comforting and soothing treat (to be served and consumed both responsibly and in moderation!!)
Ingredients for 4 people:
- 1 liter of red wine
- 150g of sugar
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 orange sliced
- 1 small apple cored and sliced
- 8 whole cloves
- ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- Wash the orange and apple and cut it into thin slices
- Pour the sugar into a saucepan
- Add the cinnamon sticks, the cloves, the apple and orange slices the grated nutmeg, and finally the wine
- Turn on the heat and bring to a boil for 5 minutes, until the sugar has dissolved. At this point my mom would set the pot on fire to flambe’ the alcohol off, which, in my humble opinion leads to a sweeter and smoother drink.
- Let the mixture rest for 1-2 minutes, then serve.
So what could we possibly NEED this year? Having your health, your home and your loved ones… and a nice warm cup of mulled wine…these are the most important gifts.
So what will the holiday look like for you? Like many, our family is split across an ocean this year. Celebrations will be muted, but I believe more heartfelt, more meaningful. All I can hear is the “Da-hoo-do-ray” song from the Grinch Who Stole Christmas in my head!
May your holiday be filled with good health and good cheer!