By Marlise Ponzo

Well…that time is upon us again. It’s New Years 2010 and most of us are racking our brains for the perfect resolution to make. It is the start of a crisp, pristine, untethered year. Maybe I can be of service. I propose we all make a promise to ourselves and our loved ones to change the way we look at food in our households from mere sustenance to passionate creative endeavor whenever we have just a few extra minutes to spare. Let’s really try to make our meals a celebration of life! Taste is the most gloriously sensual experience we get to enjoy more than any other. Why not really indulge. Let me tell you our families tradition for ringing in the new year and hope that if you follow suit, the experience is enough to inspire a full year of sensational if not soul-stirring cuisine.

Our preparation starts weeks before the big day as my husband, an executive chef that my palate is lucky enough to be married to, lovingly prepares the Cotechino di Modena. He leaves just enough time, before we will consume these succulent savory sausages, for their flavours to fully develop and blossom. These are delicate fresh sausages from the city of Modena in Emilia-Romagna, Italy. These gelatinous treats are made with a combination of pork, fatback and pork rind. When ready these sausages will be transported to my mother in law’s where they will patiently wait our arrival in the new year.

It is new years day and both our families, now encompassing four generations I’m thrilled to report, come together at my mother-in-law Gianna’s sunny condominium overlooking the Toronto waterfront. As we arrive we are greeted with Champagne flutes of Moscato d’Asti with which to toast the new year. YUM! My mother-in-law’s favorite and absolutely one of mine on the right occasion and today is perfect. It is late morning and a low alcohol sparkler exploding with flower fields and the Mediterranean sea will really hit the spot. We will all stand around talking, with Salute to Vienna always audible in the background, and enjoy the hors d’oeuvres she prepares by hand and serves in traditional Sardegnian woven baskets. The island of Sardinia is the place of her birth and where she grew into a young woman and always seems to express itself through all that she does.

Soon we will meander over to the table and the dinner trolley will be wheeled over beneath a large clay pot of the annual Lenticchie e Cotechino (Lentils and Cotechino sausage.) The combination of lentils and cotechino is one of the most classic in Italian cooking. This combination of, two of Italy’s oldest symbols of luck, the pig and the lentil when eaten on New Years, is believed to augur good fortune. The lentils, historically chosen for their coin like shape, attract wealth in the year ahead but whether they do or not is really inconsequential as they are absolutely delicious.

We will sit around this table for the next few hours filling ourselves with this earthy stew, sipping Sangiovese from the same area from which this tradition was born and chatting about all the things we will or will not do in this fresh new year that lays before us. Auguri……Felice Anno Nuovo… Happy New Year!

Marlise Ponzo, has been working in the Hospitality industry for many years and  possesses experience in many different roles from fine dining server, restaurant manager, sommelier to wine/food writer most recently. She is absolutely passionate about the culinary arts and the artistry of food and wine pairing. Being married to a chef, vacations become true culinary adventures and often land her at one michelin star restaurant or another. She has been working at Crush Wine Bar for the past eight years and has used this extraordinarily successful restaurant as a springboard for learning everything she could about the wonderful world of wine. In 2008 she graduated the Canadian Association of  Professional Sommeliers certification program with honours and accepted two awards of excellence for blind tasting from CAPS. Currently she continues to explore her passion for sensory development and wine appreciation through reading, tasting, traveling and writing.