Abby Flanagan (née Ruettgers) owns the shop around the corner. The 35-year-old's beloved South End kitchen shop and vintage cookbook emporium Farm & Fable has become a staple in the neighborhood since opening in 2013. Her Instagram (@farmandfable) not only previews goodies coming to her shelves, but also her day-to-day as a shop owner, a dog mama, and an A+ home entertainer.
Q. This time of year must be nonstop for you.
A. I actually really love the week between Christmas and New Year's because for a lot of us, the family obligations for the most part are done. This year, we're hosting our friends for Boxing Day because my husband Aidan's family is from Liverpool. We're throwing the doors open to our house in the South End, so we'll have drinks and food, and people can come as they please. And midday entertaining is a much more relaxed way to do things if you're new to entertaining. It doesn't have to be a dinner party and it doesn't have to be fancy.
Q. What's the deal with Boxing Day?
A. It has a history in the landed gentry in England, where your servants would serve the family on Christmas Day and then they would be given Boxing Day off to visit their family. They would be given a box of Christmas ham or a fruitcake to share with their families and that would usually include their Christmas bonus in addition to food products. Obviously we don't have a staff of servants we're sending home (laughs), but it's become a bank holiday in England, so there, it's another day off.
Q. How do you plan to celebrate?
A. We're so lucky in the neighborhood that I can pop over to Formaggio [Kitchen] to get cheese and charcuterie and have Urban Grape's Marlin [Henderson] deliver wine; he has the best smile. And I might do a ham and some homemade biscuits with a wonderful mustard. Then we'll have leftover Christmas cookies. I don't go to the ends of the earth for this meal, but it should be cozy comfort food that people can pick at. And I'll probably bake spiced nuts. They make the house smell so good, which I'll need because our Christmas tree is almost half dead now.
Q. Any New Year's plans?
A. We do the same thing for New Year's Eve, but this is the first year I'll be married so my husband is coming along. He doesn't have a choice, but I think he approves. We go to our family house in Stowe, Vermont, and bring a bunch of friends and the dogs and on New Year's Eve itself, we serve the same menu every year. We have Beef Wellington, and it's such a throwback to when my parents were married in the '60s and we'll do an au gratin potato with champagne and we dress for dinner in cocktail attire. We're not that fussy though, because we change right into PJs after dinner and play Trivial Pursuit and drink wine. I'll inevitably fall asleep before midnight, curled up with the dogs, but I hear everyone toast.
Q. What's your go-to last-minute party food?
A. I think holidays are times for comfort foods and it's a really fun time that you don't have to do fussy. The most popular thing I make for every open house holiday is pigs in a blanket. They're not fancy or sexy, but everyone likes them.
Rachel Raczka can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.