Hanukkah 2020: Eight nights of solitude

My safe celebration will be similar to solo Thanksgiving observances

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I stayed home for Thanksgiving, which probably looked different for you if you did the same. My one roommate moved out, and in the face of rising COVID cases, I opted to not seek another stranger to live with.

Most people I know spent this year with housemates or in relationships, but when I say I stayed home for Thanksgiving, I mean I actually sat alone at a table I’d over-decorated. I baked a pie with the pumpkin I brought from Half Moon Bay and a frozen turkey prepped in an oven bag that I had delivered. I watched movies and played games on an inexpensive projector I bought in an effort to replicate an elaborate media room that I usually hibernate in at my parents’ house this time of year.

Many friends I know had or attended parties, or visited family, and they are planning other get-togethers as I write this. Many of these people are the same who lectured me about safety or passed on anxiety about the pandemic. We’ve collectively given hall passes to each other for Thanksgiving and Christmas because this time of year is woven so firmly into the fabric of who we are. I’m going to be a nag here but I’ll make it quick: I empathize with the strong desire to be near loved ones. But it’s unwise to think limiting exposure to the general world somehow grants special immunity to be around your friends and family right now.

Thanksgiving’s solo celebration at my highly decorated table included the classics: turkey and homemade pumpkin pie. (Saul Sugarman/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Thanksgiving’s solo celebration at my highly decorated table included the classics: turkey and homemade pumpkin pie. (Saul Sugarman/Special to S.F. Examiner)

So I’ll be spending Hanukkah alone, too. Usually around this time of year, I’d play White Elephant after latkes etcetera at Aunt Paula’s. She puts a modest price limit on what we can buy for it, but certain family and friends find loopholes by bringing in old housewares or regifting. Thanks to White Elephant, I basically have a full set of kitchenware, including a Williams Sonoma castle-shaped bundt pan, electric snack dispenser, stone pizza oven and Margaritaville that was personally gifted from Jimmy Buffet. Oh yes, that last part: a friend recently asked I clarify that Mr. Buffet didn’t personally hand it to me. Where White Elephant is concerned, we have super competitive family friends who happened to buy a stake in the Margaritaville company that year, and he personally gave them the blender at a party. But that’s ridiculous, isn’t it? Here the rest of the family is haggling over who has to take home the thrift store velvet dress I brought, or yoga pants, or Tim Gunn book. Still, I use the anecdote all the time, and you’d be surprised how often shaved ice comes up in conversation. “Oh, you want a shaved ice drink? I could make one with my blender that was a gift from Jimmy Buffet.”

So OK, I’m insufferable sometimes. But a bit ago, I did invent a thematic drink relevant to both the drink maker and today’s column. The ice shaver lived for a while at the parents, and during Passover several months later, I snuck it downstairs to make a festive cocktail: red wine, grape juice, and shaved ice. I accidentally left the bottle there, and sometime later, mom found it and decided dad was a “secret Manischewitz drinker.” Light drinkers that they are, I laughed a lot at the idea that mom thought dad chugged bottles of kosher wine when she wasn’t looking.

Someone actually made a Manischewitz cocktail that looks a bit more legitimate than mine, so thank you to Amy Kritzer for this recipe, which I’ve modified a little bit to add in that shaved ice magic.

The Hanukkah go-to drink is a fruity Manischewitz Red Wine Slushie. (Saul Sugarman/Special to S.F. Examiner)

The Hanukkah go-to drink is a fruity Manischewitz Red Wine Slushie. (Saul Sugarman/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Manischewitz Red Wine Slushie

• 1 750-milliliter bottle Manischewitz kosher wine, Concord grape or blackberry

• 2 cups frozen mixed berries

• 1/2 cup basil leaves

Directions: Blend the majority of the wine and all the berries until smooth, then add basil leaves and blend for a few minutes longer. Freeze the mixture for an hour, then break it apart with a spoon. Add it back into blender and add the remainder of the wine, and blend. Alternatively, do the last step with your Margaritaville ice shaver with about a half cup of ice.

Saul Sugarman is a San Francisco-based writer, event producer and apparel designer. Read more of his content and buy his wares at saulsugarman.com. He is a guest columnist and his opinions are not necessarily that of the Examiner.

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