Happy New Year!
Onwards and upwards: it's our annual chance to forget all the troubles of the past year, start anew and to dream big again. May it bring happiness to us all. It looks like it's going to bring the long-awaited Abba Museum to Stockholm, which is another reason to visit Sweden again (along with the Eurovision Song Contest in Malmö this May).
My new year was very mellow, as I didn't feel like venturing out of the warmth into rain-drenched London town to see the fireworks or do any parties. Instead I paid culinary tribute to my half-Polish origins by making a batch of placki kartoflane (pronounced PLAHTZ-kee kar-taw-FLAH-neh) and washing them down with Winter Pimms (this representing my English half). The pancakes were a huge treat when I was a child - I remember it was my dad's job to grate the onions; my mum would then mix the grated onion with grated potatoes, a tablespoon or so of flour, salt, pepper, and an egg or two and then fry the batter in a deepish slick of hot oil until the pancakes were crispy golden brown on the outside and meltingly soft inside. I think the grated vegetables allow more mixing with the fat and therefore possibly an even higher fat content than French Fries (the pancakes also take quite a lot of salt).
These days I drain them on kitchen paper before eating, and limit myself to one batch a year - usually in the winter when one needs a bit of mental and physical insulation.
I also pace myself - two medium-size baking potatoes' worth of placki go quite a long way, although they are very moreish. So the batter sits by a pan all evening - heating up the pan and frying a batch of three placki is the work of minutes (getting rid of the excess poundage from one's waistline will of course take months).
With friends and relatives spread out now across the globe, new year greetings, texts and calls started coming in at 2pm (Australia), followed by India, Zanzibar, South Africa, The Netherlands, and then finally Los Angeles. It was fun to feel the New Year wash over the globe like a gigantic wave. The world seems a lot smaller than when I was a child.
Now, of course, cities compete on YouTube for the best fireworks display - with Sydney and London being the most competitive. London's was extraordinary, if slightly spoilt by all those Tory voiceovers. New Year's fireworks as State propaganda. Oh well, at least it was over in 12 minutes!