Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year World

My New Year's Eve tradition is... well nothing.  Sometimes I go to a party, sometimes I hang out with my sister (which is always a party), and sometimes I read and go to bed early because there is nothing on television except New Years Rockin' Eve and I don't know any of the musicians.  It works for me.

New Year's Day is my day. I  make pork loin, hoppin' john, and collards for my family and for my sister's family --- for whoever is awake and eating. My brother and his husband are in Denmark, which is part of their tradition.  Not necessarily Denmark, but travel.

In my family, we usually divide cooking duties at feast times.  On Thanksgiving, one of my favorite days, my brother does something exciting with turkey and dressings and a couple of other things.  My sister makes an incredible bourbon sweet potato casserole (no marshmallows) and brings a ham.  I make cardiac mashed potatoes (whipped potatoes, Greek yogurt, white cheddar, butter, cream cheese, garlic...), probably green bean casserole, and maybe a pumpkin cheesecake.  Although certain foods are required, the traditional part is that we all pitch in.

Christmas Eve, my brother makes a wonderful wild rice and ham soup.  In the past two years, we've enjoyed it after our church Christmas Eve service where my husband and grandsons sing.  That's working out for me.  It's relaxed and happy.  The soup is delicious.

Christmas Day, my sister makes "Do-ahead breakfast" from a recipe our mother got from a friend in the days when breakfast casseroles were new.  It is bread, sausage, cheese, eggs --- soaked together over night and baked in the morning. It's the best. Although, like the soup, we could have it another time, we don't usually.  Tradition.

And here we are for New Year's Eve.  Pork for health (nothing ironic there).  Collards for money.  Hoppin' John for luck.  Corn bread to sop it up.  Pineapple upside-down cake because I said so.

We have had this meal since we were children, although in the past it was, frankly, not the best meal of the year.  Mom hated collards, but we ate a tablespoon in the hopes of getting money in the coming year. The whole house stunk from over-cooked collards, which were slimy and limp. We usually commented, I wonder how bad it'd be if we didn't have that much? Not taking a chance though. Dad made the Hoppin' John, which in his case was Uncle Ben's perverted rice and a can of black-eyed peas with salt and pepper.  The pork was usually pork roast.

The thing about tradition, as with all of life, is to figure out what is essential to you, what is non-negotiable, and then to play with the rest.

I make two (at least) pork loins that are marinated in something wonderful.  I cook it until the second it won't kill us, and take it out.  It usually works.

My Hoppin' John starts with the trinity of celery, bell peppers, and onion cooked in bacon grease.  I use the bacon in the hoppin' john and the collards.  And breakfast.  I use jasmine rice and (yes) canned black-eyed peas.  I could soak the damn peas, but who cares?  I use black pepper and a little salt, and also cayenne, cumin, and turmeric (because I put that in everything these days.)  Sometimes I use red, yellow, and orange peppers because they are pretty.  I'm thinking of chopping some tomatoes because they are there.

My collards are not cooked enough for many people, but just enough for most in my family.  I add bacon but I toss the leaves in olive oil and throw the whole mess in a pot.  I season with nutmeg and whatever else smells good (hmmm, what about turmeric?).  It has to cook longer than spinach, but not so long that it looks like the cat threw up a lizard.

This year I'm making Jiffy Corn bread and a pineapple upside down cake.  Well, I say I am.  If my stove doesn't break and if I don't get too involved in my book and if I don't start too early on the mimosas.  Because traditions are important.

Happy New Year!

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