Travails of the aged

January 1, 2022 • 6:17 pm

As always, I made my Christmas and New Year’s Eve calls and emails to old friends, and asked several of them two questions:

1.) What did you have for Christmas dinner?

2.) Are you staying up to see in 2022?

The answers were uniform: Everyone whom I asked about dinner gave the same answer: fish (almost everyone had salmon). This group comprised at least five people.

Also, NOBODY I know stayed up to see in the New Year. Dr. Cobb, who is a regular here, emailed me at 11:20 his time and said he was going to bed.

I should add that the friends I talked to are all within ten years of my age.

The conclusions are obvious.  The older we get, the more we see food as medicine—or at least a way to extend our longevity as the Reaper draws near  (I did not have salmon, but I did go to bed early last night.) Further, the older you get, the less you care about fairly meaningless events like the end of a year. We just can’t be bothered, and we’re tired. 

I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind?   Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

62 thoughts on “Travails of the aged

  1. I made it to past midnight with my kids (the “alpacas” – don’t ask! ) and our guest, WEIT reader Dom.

  2. Ya gotta watch that salmon (Monty Python- The Meaning of Life). We had ribeye on the barbie and did stay up till midnight. Roast beast on Xmas, with popovers (individual Yorkshire puddings), and toasted corn pudding and green beans. Chocolate brownie cookies with crushed candy canes for dessert.

    1. Your menu is almost an exact replica of our Xmas eve dinner (we didn’t have toasted corn pudding though- sounds like a perfect accompaniment, but we did have the obligatory green beans with bacon). And desert was rum cake. I only eat prime rib / Yorkshire pudding once a year, and that would be Xmas eve, and it’s a dinner I always look forward to. And give me really hot horseradish, please. I grew my own and it was the best, but last year it didn’t do well and the roots were rotted. I’ll try again this spring. Too much rain w/o good drainage I suspect.

      1. Me too!
        I’m 86 and so are my neighbors. We champagned in the new year, hoping for a better 2022. You’re never too old for champagne and hope!

  3. I made Cassoulet and it was very tasty (though it was complicated and expensive which seems counterintuitive for a “peasant dish”). I never eat healthy during any holiday, whether it be Christmas, the 4th of July, or my birthday. 🙂 I try to eat healthy when the days are of the normal variety. I’m 52, so that may change with age, but my folks, well into their 70’s didn’t seem to mind a big helping of the rich dish.

    Last night, I started watching Ridley Scott’s latest The Last Duel around 9:00pm and was hoping it would lead me into bringing in the New Year. Dammit, I fell asleep and woke up around 12:30. I don’t blame the movie though, it was quite riveting from what I remember, I blame the libations. I’ll watch it again tonight and hopefully I’ll get through it. To be honest, I don’t remember the last time I had a “proper” New Year’s celebration where I’m surrounded by hundreds of strangers, drunk and amiable and loud. Probably Hawaii for the year 2,000.

  4. Pah! I see your Eliot and raise you Yeats:
    “An aged man is but a paltry thing,
    A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
    Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing”

    Many of us in NZ and elsewhere are very glad you’re still singing loudly.

    Myself, as an expatriate Pom in NZ, I insisted on roast turkey with all the trimmings for Christmas dinner. Seasons? Too hot? Stuff and nonsense! I did go to bed at 10pm on New Years Eve, but I’ve done that for years – if you’d grown up with “The White Heather Club” on TV you’d go to bed early to avoid it too.

      1. I like it too, although Kingsley Amis, a close friend of Larkin’s, seems not to have done, -I think because he didn’t like to see his friend in that mood and wished he could have done more to help. From Amis’ “Memoirs”

        “Here, tellingly, with the rhyme think with/link with, his skill deserts him for a moment, and there is a smug finality in the last line. This fear had arisen in conversation too, and I should have told him then and there not to be a bloody fool – if you can’t think you can’t realise you haven’t any senses and aren’t anywhere, and don’t tell me again it’ll be different from before you were born because (though you had nothing to think with then either) you could pass the time by looking forward to your birth. I know the paths of glory and everything else lead but to the grave. And on first reading ‘Aubade’ I should have found a way of telling you that depression among the middle-aged and elderly is common in the early morning and activity disperses it, as you tell us in your last stanza, so if you feel as bad as you say then fucking get up, or if it’s too early or something then put the light on and read Dick Francis. ”

        I also love Larkin’s “Church Going” – expresses very well why a non-believer might find some sympathy for religious belief. Simon Blackburn wrote very well about this somewhere.

        1. Thanks for the Amis quote, I hadn’t come across that one before. Yes, “Church Going” is excellent (as is “An Arundel Tomb”).

  5. A perfectly grilled filet mignon with a light salad and a beer, two scoops of Tillamook ice cream, one vanilla and the other chocolate mudslide, and one of my wife’s homemade chocolate chip cookies. If I were on death row it would be my requested last meal.

    I’m a night owl, so I’m always up at midnight. But I agree, the new year doesn’t mean much to me.

  6. “Also, NOBODY I know stayed up to see in the New Year” – What? No New Yorkers in “the city that never sleeps”?

    1. HA! NYC is sure sleeping these days. Last night (and this week or so) have been totally dead here in NYC.
      Lots of corona so maybe people have left the city (it feels like it).
      Chelsea, Manhattan

  7. I remember that when I was young, feeling that New Year’s was a burden because if I didn’t do something I felt like I was a big loser. Getting older is freedom!

  8. Afternoons and coffee spoons … Crash Test Dummies song : based on a T. S. Eliot poem…

    But hey – the mornings are FRESH and BRISK … so what if the night brings sleep, it should – wisdom, that’s what it is wisdom of the ages

  9. We almost always have roast turkey for christmas dinner, but this year my daughter and son-in-law and the grandkids are visiting. He does not really like turkey so we made roast beef and he made some lamb on the grill. We did have mashed potatoes, however. As almost always on christmas we had a nice Bordeaux wine. I found a nice Pauillac, a Haut Bage Liberal. It was very good. I am a night person and almost always stay up late. On New Years eve, my wife, surprisingly, stayed up too, but everyone else went to be early. We watched the Death in Paradise christmas special. Two minutes after midnight, I went to bed. I was up not so much to see in the new year, but to see the end of the show. I did toast the new year with one of our local beers, La Cumbre Elevated IPA, although I know a lot here including PCC don’t like hoppy brews. The secret to staying up past midnight is to sleep until 10 am or so.

  10. “…bottoms of my trousers rolled”, but roll ’em back down before cavorting on Antarctica, as I’d said.

    “The Meaning of Life”, but god got quite irate, at least at loser sperm cells.

    My wife and I must be pretty close to the oldest here; we went to bed early both days after enjoyable lamb, then salmon.

    Referring back it seems that every sperm is sacred also to the neighbouring Old Order Mennonites–our friends-more-than-acquaintances farming across the road had 8 of their so-far brood of 9 come over to sing (a cappella as usual–I think instruments are a religious no-no), outdoors with Covid, fortunately on the only time it got wintry and xmasy in this dreary December southwestern Ontario. Maybe next week will have nordic skiing where I’m at, i.e. Laurentians with some other ‘business’.

  11. Betty White is quoted widely as saying that what she was going to do after famously/historically hosting SNL was to “have vodka and a hotdog”. So I’m pretty sure that salmon and kale are just for old people.

  12. I was flying on New Year’s Eve, so my dinner consisted of a cheeseburger (not bad) at the San Diego airport. 2022 struck when I was exiting the BART station on Montgomery Street in San Francisco. I got home at 1am and celebrated with a cocktail of calvados and cider. I am a night owl and have always stayed up to greet the new year, though this year I didn’t have a choice.

  13. Roast beef, mashed potatoes with gravy, and green peas, followed by banana cream pie. And I’m slightly older than our esteemed host, a NY resident, and was well-asleep when the ball dropped.

  14. On Xmas Day, we had our traditional Xmas lasagna. Our Xmas Eve tradition is to go to Niche, a wonderful restaurant in Geneva Illinois, with friends. On NYE, we went to see friends at 4pm. Early dinner of lobster rolls from Luke’s Lobsters of Portland, ME. We’re home in time to celebrate the New Year in Nuuk, Greenland, 9pm in Chicago. Could not make it to Newfoundland time, 9:30pm.

  15. We had steaks, but we eat a lot of beef. We probably have 300 pounds of it in the freezers.

    We usually set off a lot of fireworks at midnight in NYE, but one of my kids suggested we do it a couple of hours early. He is 24. That seemed agreeable to the rest of us. Of course, there are no other people around, so it does not really make any difference.

  16. What is this fish nonsense? A nice Jewish boy like you should have been eating traditional Christmas food — Chinese. That is what we did, though it was takeout at my son’s house. As I recall, no one had fish, but there may have been a little trafe in the egg rolls.

    As for welcoming the new year, we stayed up till midnight — in New York. It is 2 hours ahead of us, but Times Square is the center of the universe, so that counts.

  17. I’m 43 and I turned down an invitation to join my soccer mates at a bar here in Utah on New Years Eve, because I couldn’t see myself staying up past 11. The only British-born player on the team called me a “plonker.” I haven’t taken the time to look up what that means, but I assume it’s not a compliment.

    1. Righto. Brit here! It literally means “penis”, but it’s largely used as a more affectionate, jokey thing.

  18. 1. A full turkey dinner, because that’s what we would have been eating if we’d been able to visit my wife’s family in the U.S.
    2. No, because I’m a morning person, not a night-owl, but the neighbourhood firework display between 23:55 and 00:30 UT did wake me.

    As an antidote to Eliot’s bleak outlook, I’d offer Tennyson’s Ulysses.

    Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
    We are not now that strength which in old days
    Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
    One equal temper of heroic hearts,
    Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
    To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

    1. 1) A full Turkey dinner as usual
      2) No, because this New Year I am a bit under the weather. That being said I haven’t made it ’till midnight for a number of years (One month into my 70th trip around the sun).

      Another Tennyson offering for the New Year: In Memoriam, [Ring out, Wild Bells] Seems appropriate for this New Year

  19. 1. For Xmas’ Eve we had homemade croquettes of jamón ibérico, some more jamón, cheese and a light custard (homemade as well); In Xmas it was casserole with oxtail.
    2. New Year’s Eve (and again New Year’s lunch) ‘Russian salad’ (my version, mashed potatoes, boiled eggs, tuna and shrimps, cut in minute pieces, with homemade mayo) and some pulled pork (this time from Costco).
    3. In Spain we have this tradition in New Year’s Eve to eat 12 grapes in front of the TV, one for every chime of the bell in Puerta del Sol, Madrid, so yes, I stayed awake for that and later (3.15am) watching a TV special.
    4. My favourite poem about getting old and dying: Jaime Gil de Biedma ‘No volveré a ser joven’

    Que la vida iba en serio
    uno lo empieza a comprender más tarde
    -como todos los jóvenes, yo vine
    a llevarme la vida por delante.

    Dejar huella quería
    y marcharme entre aplausos
    -envejecer, morir, eran tan solo
    las dimensiones del teatro.

    Pero ha pasado el tiempo
    y la verdad desagradable asoma:
    envejecer, morir,
    es el único argumento de la obra.

    I found a translation:

    That life meant business,
    One only starts to grasp it a shade later:
    Like all youngsters, I was set
    To come and take life by storm.

    I wanted to leave a mark
    And bow out later to applause:
    To grow old and then to die were but
    The outer bounds of the stage.

    Time has elapsed though,
    And the unsavoury truth looms:
    For my life to wane and then for me to die,
    That’s the single plot of the play.

    Anyway, happy New Year for all fellow WEIT readers and our kind host!

  20. Christmas lunch: roast Turkey with all the (English) trimmings – including Brussels sprouts, cooked comme chez moi. Daughter #3, her husband and their kids wouldn’t have it any other way.

    New Years Eve: for the first time for a long time, we didn’t make it to midnight. We got up early next day instead and drove to the South Downs for an invigorating walk. Bliss! The rest of the year can only be downhill after that.

    Still, Happy New Year to all!

  21. Crikey. I was up til near 5am on NY day. Seeing some humans I’ve not seen since the beginning of the pandemic. That said, I rarely do this sort of thing nowadays. I might count as a whippersnapper though being only in my early 40s…

    Merry happy to all BTW.

  22. During the 1980s we decided to spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve in the UK. We stayed in a hotel in Hastings.. We decided to look for a restaurant, but to our surprise they were all booked full, and we ended up buying hot dogs from a stand on the beach.

    Back in New York, my colleagues at work were sharing their New-Year experiences, and I told them about our hot-dog dinner in the UK.

    One of my colleagues started laughing as mad, he and his girl friend had the same experience.
    “Where were you? I asked. In Eastbourne, he replied. So it appeared we were a couple of miles apart, celebrating the New Year with fish-and-chips and hot dogs.

  23. 1) Christmas Day. A superb free range goose from a local supplier
    2) New Year’s Eve … a three rib piece of beef cooked to perfection. Still mooing !

    And now for that Welsh poet WH Davies


    What is this life if, full of care,
    We have no time to stand and stare?-

    No time to stand beneath the boughs
    And stare as long as sheep or cows:

    No time to see, when woods we pass,
    Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

    No time to see, in broad daylight,
    Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

    No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
    And watch her feet, how they can dance:

    No time to wait till her mouth can
    Enrich that smile her eyes began?

    A poor life this if, full of care,
    We have no time to stand and stare.

  24. For the New Year’s Eve at a house party in Berlin we prepared Polish dumplings with potato-and-onion filling, sprinkled with fresh coriander leaves but we also had some salmon in the form of caviar which was brought by our Russian friend. And we felt obliged to watch Putin’s speach with him. He translated it to us: “we should put trust in our sensitivity and remember that the past will bring us into the future.” 🙂
    I stayed up until early SUNDAY morning. 37 y/o

  25. Our traditional family smorgasbord (potluck) at my elderly mother’s house was cancelled, due to the exponentially rising numbers of COVID cases in the Greater Toronto Area of Ontario. We were all concerned for her, as she is now 90 y.o. Some of my siblings opted out so in the end it was just her and one of my brother left. Huge disappointment for everyone, as there was to be a suckling pig and all manner of foods, homey and gourmet.

    I spent it at my own home with my two children and a DIL-to-be. I roasted a huge beef tenderloin, made a few different types of gravy, steamed a pot of Jasmine rice, plus potstickers, Costco sausage rolls and roasted chicken as backups for the finicky; the DIL made lovely mashed potatoes, and my daughter made a huge vegetable salad. We were all too full to have warmed up apple pie for dessert and nibbled on homemade cookies sent over by neighbours.

    This New Year’s Eve was one of the rare nights I managed to stay up with the help of late afternoon tea. My daughter and I watched the televised celebrations from New York, and then phoned my son close to midnight.

  26. I’m 70 so I contributed Salmon Wellington to our Xmas dinner. 😉 It was quite good, if I do say so myself. I also had some of the traditional mock duck and very nice potatoes. As for New Year’s Eve… I haven’t stayed up for that in decades.

      1. It is a Chinese thing. AKA: braised gluten. It comes in a can and has been pressed so it has a surface that mimics duck skin. My wife makes it with shiitake mushrooms and it ends up being rather tasty. Good with wild rice, too.

        1. I think the thing you are describing is – ready for this?


          Pronounced : SATAN!

          No I’m just kidding. Its “say-tahn”… sey-tahhn … something like that.

            1. OK then – might have a taste one day…
              [ reads…]
              Oh, MSG – I can understand that – the mushrooms have guanylate – you got some umami punch there….

  27. Fish indeed for Xmas: Trout, salad, boiled potatoes. NYE: Non spectacular everyday food for us, marinaded and roasted Tofu plus Chinese cabbage à la chinoise plus wiener sausages for the so-inclined, to bed at 10:30 and promptly woke at 12:05 due to the noise. I lost interest in New Year’s Eve and my birthday with the onset of puberty, though I am still quite partial to Christmas.

  28. My wife craved Korean food so we went to a local tofu soup place that we knew wouldn’t be crowded. It was good. We went to bed well before midnight but I woke up at midnight because of people setting off illegal fireworks. The cats were scared so I had to calm them. It actually wasn’t that bad as the noise abated within 15 minutes or so. We all went back to sleep.

    Salmon wellington sounds good! Mock duck is intriguing. So what’s the fear of peaches all about?

    Happy New Year to all!

    1. To “eat a peach” is to live dangerously/take risks, etc. I remember that from studying the poem in my University days.

  29. For the NY dinner, we had latkes, chicken salad, Russian-style deviled eggs, herring & caviar. With copious amount of gluhwein. With all that, we got so sleepy that decided to celebrate the arrival of the New Year by the East Coast time and went to bed at 9:30 local time.

  30. We had chicken cacciatore, my Mom’s recipe, slightly modified by me. Comfort food from my past. We ate by ourselves (my wife, son and I). Jamie could not eat much of anything — he had his wisdom teeth out on 23-Dec. I thought, since he had never had chicken cacciatore, he wouldn’t miss it too much. Wrong! I had to promise to make it again in a few days when he could eat it too. And I did. And he liked it.

    On the 26th, I made pan-fried pacific cod (lightly bread-crumbed, cooked until it flaked apart). Jamie could eat this and really savored it after several days “sweet crap” (e.g. icecream), which he was quite sick of by then.

    We did not stay up until midnight. We had friends over and made it until about 9pm. We are morning people. I haven’t been up until midnight in many years.

    Like Jerry said: Just too tired!

  31. I’m probably too late for my response to count, but my answers are

    1) Latkes (!)
    2) No. Conked out around 10:00.

    Oops. Just noticed that Anna already responded. Never mind.

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