November 29, 2012

Is it just me, or is there a lot of competitive holiday-ing going on out there?

Don’t get me wrong, I love Pinterest and food/style blogs and Instagram and gift guides as much as the next girl, but sometimes I think that all of this display can mess with our heads. Maybe it’s not meant to be competitive, but when everyone else’s life appears to be perfectly packaged, in cute recycled cardboard boxes festooned with washi tape and organic baker’s twice, then photographed using the perfect vintage filter, it’s easy to feel like your life doesn’t measure up.

This is not what the holidays are about.

The holidays are not a competitive sport. They are not meant for comparing your life (or holiday card or wrapping job or homemade toffee) to everyone else’s. They are not about feeling obligated to whip up magazine-page-worthy meals from scratch or addressing your custom typography/photo collage holiday cards in metallic pen calligraphy or making sure that your tree ornaments are all in the same color family or festooning your mantle and door with homemade decorations from pine boughs you chopped yourself.

You don’t have to host the most charming holiday party or have just the right present picked out for everyone. If you don’t do these things, the holidays will go on, and they will not lose any of their real meaning.

I’m all for making this time of year special, but when we make it so damn significant that every inch of it is up for inspection and ornamentation, we’ve defeated the point.


Okay, it may seem totally hypocritical that I waxed on about resisting the holiday pressure to do it all and now I’m offering you a recipe for making your own crystallized ginger. I know, I KNOW.

Please know I’m not implying that you ought to be making your own crystallized ginger, just that you can make it at home should you be planning to do some holiday baking or would like to give some away as gifts. But if you care not for the stuff or can’t be bothered to do one more damn thing right now, then ignore me.


2 cups water
2 cups sugar
2 cups fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 1/8” strips or coins

Bring the water and sugar to a boil over high heat, then add the ginger pieces. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to boil the mixture until the ginger becomes translucent, 25-30 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon or strainer, transfer the ginger pieces to a drying rack set over a cookie sheet (to keep drips off of your counter). Allow the ginger to cool and dry for half an hour before rolling the pieces in granulated sugar. In the meantime, reduce the leftover liquid down until you have yourself a nice ginger syrup (perfect in tea or cocktails!)

Return the sugared ginger to a clean rack and allow the pieces to dry out thoroughly before storing them in an airtight container. The finished crystallized should no longer feel tacky and should “ping” when you drop the pieces into a jar.

Looking for a recipe to use your ginger in?  These ginger-macadamia nut cookies are a favorite.



  1. Waaaaiiiiiiiiit.

    It’s the HOLIDAYS?!


    Wow! That snuck up on me, but I guess you are right. It is already a week after Thanksgiving. Yikes. I’d better hop on the stick I guess!

    I love this post and all it says regarding what is truly important about this season. Having said that, that is some damn fine lookin’ ginger you’ve got there, Nishta, and methinks this could be one holiday thing I could actually accomplish!! 🙂

    (BTW — did you notice?! I don’t go to the SPAM folder anymore!! I started commenting with the space for my website blank, and that seems to have done the trick. And it is okay — I don’t blog there anymore as I moved back to Denver from Paris. Long, gritty, ugly story that I won’t get into here. I’m okay. Everything else will be, too. I’m just glad I figured out how to comment here again! 🙂 )

    Ginger, here I come!
    Thanks, Nishta.
    (formerly an alien parisienne)

    Comment by Karin P — November 30, 2012 @ 12:35 am

  2. “I’m all for making this time of year special, but when we make it so damn significant that every inch of it is up for ornamentation and inspection, we’ve defeated the point.” Hooray for you! I wish I could hang this sentiment on a banner over my house!
    Of course, having a new baby in your home greatly encourages simplicity in all else. A joyous holiday season to you and your family.

    Comment by Shannon from Roswell — November 30, 2012 @ 12:59 pm

  3. Thank you for making me feel that I’m not the grinch for my holiday attitude! Make my own crystalized ginger? But of course! It is the antidote to the holiday craze for me to just cook what sounds good, and this sounds really good. For me the holidays are about appreciation, and I appreciate you Nishta!

    Comment by Lisa Brooks — November 30, 2012 @ 5:25 pm

  4. bravo, bravo. you certainly said it better than i could. i get so frustrated with the way people act this time of year i fear i do become more grich like every year. keep up the good work putting this kind of stuff out there.

    i hope you enjoy the holiday with your new little one. i hope it is filled with love, gratitude and joy.

    Comment by jacquie — December 1, 2012 @ 8:50 pm

  5. @Karin–I’m so glad to see you NOT in the spam folder, and glad to hear you are well. big changes in your life! I hope you are able to enjoy some down time this holiday season.

    @Shannon–let’s make t-shirts 🙂 and I agree, having a new baby does help with the prioritizing. he is a blessing in so many ways. happy holidays to you!

    @Lisa–yes! cooking what sounds good, just to do it, is totally the antidote to holiday madness. thank you for your kind words; I appreciate you, too, truly.

    jacquie–it’s comforting to know you could relate. I think there are a lot of us frustrated with the madness of this season, and it’s hard not to become grinchy. I’m hoping that maintaining my favorite traditions and just spending time with family will be good antidotes. thank you for your good wishes and happy holidays to you!

    Comment by Blue Jean Gourmet — December 4, 2012 @ 12:37 pm

  6. Nishta, thank you for this great post. You are SO right. And now, could I ask you a question that I fear will sound like I don’t get it: How did you make the ginger strips in the photo so long, and, well, photogenic? Just grating them on a box grater doesn’t seem like it would do it. Thanks, as ever, for your blog. Best to you and your family.

    Comment by Leanne — December 7, 2012 @ 1:25 pm

  7. @Lisa–yay latkes! we enjoyed some last night ourselves. and if you try some of these recipes, please let me know how they turn out!

    @Katherine–yes, yes I do.

    @Leanne–I’m so glad the post resonated with you! as for how I got the ginger to look like that, I cut it first into thin planks, then into long strips. I did this before cooking it, which made it much easier to work with–it did make fishing the strips out of the syrup a little tricky, but a slotted spoon helped!

    Comment by Blue Jean Gourmet — December 9, 2012 @ 8:00 am

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