At a December dinner at Archestratus Books & Foods in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, Ms. Golip cooked a holiday meal. Like Thanksgiving in the United States, Christmas in Venezuela comes with set dishes and menus. Some guests were Venezuelan, and most guests she knew. Her dinners range from $75 to $125, but she plans to start more casual cooking classes in the future. This is a passion project — she works a day job as a project manager in marketing at The New York Times. Her menus take weeks to plan.
“I am trying to recreate the flavors of my memory with what happens to be around,” she said. “I compensate with what I could find here, and that’s exactly the broader experience of being immigrant.”
At the December dinner, each dish came from the holiday menu. For an appetizer, Ms. Golip made a cocktail with wine and three grapes, a reference to a Venezuelan tradition of eating eat 12 grapes and making 12 wishes on New Year’s Eve.
Almost every Venezuelan bakery sells ham bread, pan de jamón, at year’s end. When Ms. Golip couldn’t find any, she learned to make the stuffed bread herself. For a main course, she served hallacas, which like tamales are stuffed and folded with corn dough and meat. Traditionally, families come together in December to make the holiday dishes, folding and tying shut the plantain leaves, assembly-line-style.
“It has an element of ritual,” said Jose Ripol, 32, a guest at her table who had left Venezuela as a child. “This plantain leaf is what Christmas smells like to me.”
In her menu, Ms. Golip recalled flavors from holidays past, before Venezuela descended into economic and social chaos, before her friends scattered across the world.
“The places I remember don’t exist anymore,” Miriam Marquez, 39, a guest who immigrated from Venezuela. “Especially now. That’s why this food reminds me of my childhood.”