Last night, I went to my friend Donna’s for a dinner party. She has a cute little home about a half hour south from where we are staying and an hour north of the Maine and New Brunswick border. Donna is a “Newfie.” A Newfie is an affectionate term for those who originate from “the rock” or Newfoundland, Canada. Newfies are often the butt of many a joke in Canada. They have a distinct dialect of English, very similar to those from Northern England.
Newfies are known for their hospitality and kindness. Traditionally, Newfoundland was a “have-not” province, meaning a lot of the population lived in poverty. That was before they discovered the natural gas off their coast, which was great for them right up until the price of oil started tanking. (Get it… the price of oil tanked.) My friend Donna and her family, who all live in New Brunswick now, grew up not having much, but they also learned to share what it is that they have. She always jokes that her dinner parties may not have the most fancy of dishes, but that everyone is fed and has a great time. I would argue with her on the first point, but the last two points are right on. Donna is an amazing hostess.
Her dinners start at 5pm sharp and she generally tries to maintain a schedule of bringing out a new course every hour. The first course is always the appetizers.
Everything is laid out buffet style, so people can pick and choose what to eat based on their preferences. Donna tries to accommodate everyone’s individual food needs. I particularly enjoyed the Caesar salad in a pita bowl. The dressing seeps into the bowl and you can eat the bowl when you’re done. Or if you’re gluten free, you can just throw the pita bowl into the compost.
Then it’s onto the main course. Fresh homemade sour dough bread, shrimp risotto, spaghetti, pasta sauce with ground beef and moose-meat sausages, turkey, turkey gravy and steamed carrots and yellow and white potatoes. Again, guests choose what they want to eat in order to accommodate their palates. Moose-meat? Absolutely delicious. Moose-meat made into sausages? Absolutely to die for. In fact, if I hadn’t been told there was moose-meat in the pasta sauce, I’d have been none the wiser. It doesn’t taste gamey at all like deer meat tends to taste. Although, I did learn from another guest that if you know how to prepare deer meat that it will not taste gamey at all.
After the main course, we took a longer break before the deserts were laid out and Donna had prepared a special kind of Yankee Swap for everyone. I’d always wondered the origin of the term “Yankee Swap” and apparently it dates back to the American Civil War when the Confederates and the Yankees would trade prisoners in what was supposed to be some sort of fun game. How it got adapted into a Christmas tradition is unknown. In case you’ve never heard of a “Yankee Swap,” traditionally, how it works is a dollar amount is set for gifts, and each person attending your Christmas party brings one gift, wrapped, without a tag on it. When each guest arrives, they place their untagged gift under the tree. Then, each guest draws for a number, based on the number of gifts that are
brought. When a person’s number is drawn, they pick a gift under the tree, open it, and show it to everyone else. After the first gift is opened, each subsequent guest to choose a gift has the option to trade gifts with anyone who has already opened a gift. So the later the number you drew is on the list, the better your odds of being able to choose whatever gift you prefer. It is a really fun secret Santa kind of game, where guests can interact with each other. Making the gifts funny makes the game even more fun.
My friend Donna varied her Yankee Swap a bit though. Instead of asking us all to buy a gift to bring to the party, she bought all the gifts. As each guest entered the party, we were all given a homemade lanyard with a Christmas tag on it. On the tag, was a number.
Donna had bought all kinds of neat little gifts. She said she allots $5 for gifts and spends the whole year before her annual Christmas dinner party looking for sales. She tries to get a mix of funny gifts and nice gifts. The gift I really wanted was a duck wine holder!
I was number 3 so I picked up a pottery plate first, but someone else wanted my plate and I ended up with a necklace from Avon instead, of which I do not have a photo. My hubby, C, had number 16, so we picked up a travel Pilsner glass. The camouflage is perfect for hiding that beer you’re drinking in public. Or for those days you feel like going for a hike in the woods and you want to hide that refreshing beer you brought along. It also works for when you go camping at those “dry” prohibition campgrounds. Also, if you’re out hunting, you certainly don’t want the deer to steal your beer! Hunting with guns and guzzling brew-skis is now perfectly safe now that your Pilsner travel glass will blend in with your environment. (We will definitely be re-gifting this to my dad!)
Finally, we had our last course of the evening and my favorite. Desert and coffee/tea. Donna always has multiple deserts to choose from and I can’t help but try them all. Homemade cookies, vanilla cake with red and green frosting, carrot cake and chocolate fudge cake. And yes, I tried all four! My husband had to roll me to the car. We haven’t even got to the real nitty gritty of the Christmas eating season and I know I have put on at least 10 pounds since September. Gazing at all of the photos of wonderful homemade food at Donna’s, I think I gained another 10 pounds just from the memories of last evening!