New Year’s Reset

I’ve only seen my mother drunk once.  It’s not that she’s a highly successful secret drinker, she just doesn’t drink alcohol very often. 

But one  New Year’s Eve in Puerto Rico, we went to a party.  Everybody brought their kids, and we were relegated to a rumpus room with chips and sodas.

My brother and I were pretty well-behaved children, but I think my mom always worried that she’d turn her back and we’d grow fangs and become serial-killing-bank-robbing-jay-walkers.  So she frequently checked on us.

At first.

After a while, the space between visits got longer, and her demeanor changed into something, in any other human, would be considered silly.  But my mother doesn’t do silly, or goofy, or wacky—ever.

But she also never imbibes, so it took some time to realize what was going on.

My mother was getting snockered!

Her beverage of choice that evening was Cold Duck.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it: “The Cold Duck…recipe was based on a German legend involving Prince Clemens Wenceslaus of Saxony ordering the mixing of all the dregs of unfinished wine bottles with Champagne.”

The Wenceslaus in question.

Now, if that doesn’t sound like a party, I don’t know what does.  Honestly, though, eww.

At some point, my mother and another guest decided that they were on one of those drunken, all-consuming, to-the-death missions to go Christmas caroling.  So six days after Christmas waving bottles of their sparkling abomination, they roamed the neighborhood, belting out carols that all seemed to come out sounding like “Feliz Navidad”.

Mom’s caroling was a tad more PG-13.

If, Gentle Reader, you’ve ever spent the evening guzzling cheap, way too sweet, effervescent wine, you probably have an idea of how this story ends.

Come morning, my abstemious mother was hugely hungover; every system in her body rebelled and punished her in the strongest possible fashion.  She took to her bed and late in the evening emerged, looking like a blinking, wincing piece of glass that would shatter at the merest sound or touch.

Mom eventually recovered but she’s never allowed herself to get even tipsy since.

So maybe you’ve also had a really, really good time ringing in the new year, but this is the South, and to keep the planet spinning on its axis, you are contractually required to eat greens, cornbread, and black-eyed peas.

But you feel as though instead of its axis, the planet is in actuality spinning on your head and in your gut, and you know, in your rode-hard-and-put-up-wet soul that there shall be no complicated kitchen maneuvers today.

That’s ok.  Because you, a few days ago, prepared.  And, today you have that traditional feast waiting for you, in the fridge and pantry.

A few days earlier, in that strange lull between Christmas and New Year’s make the easiest short ribs ever.  In the morning, season frozen, boneless short ribs, and wrap in a parchment pouch along with two onions and a few heads of garlic, halved.  Seal everything into a foil pouch, cook at 275° for 5 ½ hours, then toss, unopened into the fridge.

Next, prepare a batch of grits (cornbread substitution) and saute some spinach, finishing with lemon.  Refrigerate.  Make sure you have on hand, a can of Southern black-eyed peas (Lucks is the tastiest and most authentic).

Right before dinner, nuke grits and greens, heat up the beans, and toss the short ribs into a skillet to crisp edges and warm.

You can eat up, knowing that your adherence to tradition has saved the universe and given you good luck for the coming year.

Then go back to bed—you don’t look so good.

Thanks for your time, and have the happiest of new years.

Contact debbie at

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