Holidays are how we mark time. How we travel back into it. How we repeat and learn. How we echo our ancestors. I remember the train whistling through the night in Maine... remember never sleeping, the presents bought without anyone in mind, the year the dog drank the Champagne, food allergies and flat beer, Caesar dressing from the packet, nut chews and gumdrop cookies, Dylan Thomas and seeking solace in books, the way the old motel feels more and more like it might fall into the river, how each year more rooms are sealed up, never to open again, spreading presents across the cheap duvet, getting paper cuts from wrapping paper, buying two-sided tape by accident, snow-capped ice, freezing rain, and all of the stars gleaming across the northern night sky. Holidays are hard but they are human. Here are breakups and hang-ups and cake. And a recipe we'd like to share...


1 pint oysters, in their shells

1/4 cup butter, plus 2 tablespoons, cut into cubes

1/2 teaspoon salt

dash cayenne

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1-1/4 quarts milk, scalded

1/4 teaspoon paprika

handful finely chopped chives

Shuck the oysters before you begin, preserving their liquor. Begin to heat the oysters and their liquor in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter, salt, cayenne pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. When the edges of the oysters curl, add the scalded milk. Bring just to boiling, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat at once. Cut the remaining butter in pieces and place in heated soup bowls. Pour soup over the butter and sprinkle with paprika and chives. It is sometimes preferable to make the soup in advance as it gives the milk a chance to absorb all the flavors.