In Search of a Perfect Year

Almost every single one has something to do with my mouth—either what goes in it, or what comes out of it.

I’m speaking about New Year’s resolutions.

Nobody with a belly button is perfect, therefore everyone could stand a little self-improvement.  The amount of fixing I need could fill the Grand Canyon with enough left to fill every mayonnaise jar in North America.

So, I decided to improve myself and my year by making a few resolutions.  And the making of them caused me to look back at past resolutions which is when I started to suss out a theme.  Many of them concerned not speaking, speaking (much more likely), and eating.

Oral fixation for $1200, Alex.

I resolve to forgo all those extra calories in my mom’s Christmas cookies.  So for the foreseeable future, I’ll be saving the calories by skipping lunch and supper and eating cookies in their place.

I resolve to remember that I am not the hall monitor of the world.  In the unlikely event, someone asks for my advice, I will happily give it.  But I will no longer offer unsolicited; my judgments, warnings, and wisdom. 

Unless I cut this out, and quick, I face the very real risk of becoming that person; the one who always knows what’s best, knows what you’re doing wrong, and knows the right way things should go.

Nobody likes this guy or is happy to see him.  The people around him are constantly looking for reasons to leave, “OMG, would you look at the time?  I need to pick up my friend from the airport, and help a co-worker move.”

That guy’s like the biter in kindergarten.  That kid never gets invited to birthday parties.

I vow to shut up, be present, and listen.  Far too often in a conversation with someone, I get very enthusiastic, and that causes me to interrupt them.  That’s rude and annoying.  And many times I only half-listen while I feverishly think about what I’ll say next.  Then I jump in by interrupting.  It’s a vicious, irritating circle.

I promise to put down that plastic and back away.  I might put it in cart, but I really need to stop proceeding to checkout.  I need no more bottoms, no more tops, and no more shoes (Really?  No new shoes?  Yes really.  Now shut up and pretend you’re a grownup).  I have enough dog walking/play clothes to walk every dog in North Carolina in clean clothes—twice a day.    

Who knew shopping in one’s pajamas could be such a dangerous proposition?  Amazon, thou art an evil temptress.

One year from today I’d like to have regained my fluency in Spanish.  When we moved to North Carolina in 1979, after three years in Puerto Rico and three more in San Diego, I could read a Spanish-language book and carry on a conversation in Spanish.  I spent a week in Mexico without speaking a word of English.

After decades of disuse, much of it has been forgotten.  My goal is to be able to freely converse  with the young woman at my local panaderia (bakery).  I’d like to be able to order a pastry without accidentally telling her that my cupcake has fleas (it totally doesn’t).

Finally, after years of writing about food, this year I want to learn the skills to make me a better photographer of all things edible.  I want people to look at my pix and think, “Holy cow that looks delicious!”, and not “I can never unsee that and I may never eat again.”

Here’s to growth and change in 2020!

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at

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

Random stuff I discovered and wrote down in 2015 Part 3

For the past couple weeks, I’ve been relating excerpts of a food log that I kept throughout 2015.  This week will conclude with September through December.

September 14th– The Kid and I braved rush hour traffic and drove over to Cary this afternoon, and finally visited La Farm Bakery (4248 NW Cary Pkwy).

The reason we made the journey is because I really love to go by their stand and grab a loaf of sourdough at the “Got to be NC” festival in the spring.

Boy, am I glad we went.  It’s always nice when something lives of to the hype, and La Farm did not disappoint.  It’s a very French looking space in a generic strip mall.  Not only a bakery, they are a café, and coffee shop.  Everything’s fresh and fragrant.  One of the sides they offer for their menu of hand-crafted sandwiches are house made potato chips.  It was almost worth the trip just for that, but they also have various flavors of French macarons.

October 25th– It’s the fair!

This year I got to go twice, and got in free both times.  At the request of Lisa Prince from the NC Agricultural Department, I judged a couple specialty cooking contests.  It was a crazy amount of fun, and totally new for me.

Lisa Prince and friend.

Even though the novel holds much appeal, I’m delighted that some things never change.

Al’s French Fries: Without a doubt, the best fries at the fair.  Yeah, yeah, your fancy frites and duck fat fries are great, but there’s nothing better than stumbling through the midway, burning your tongue because those salty, crispy pieces of heaven are just too darn good to wait.fair-fudgeAll-American Fudge:  Located in the same spot every year at the end of the hobby and craft building, smiling faces will greet you and weigh out piles of fudge in old-timey cast iron scales.  Whether your first stop on the way in or your last on the way out, nobody anywhere does fudge like these guys.  I’m just grateful they only come around once a year.

Every couple of years the names changes, but the wooden barrels and the delicious root beer doesn’t.  Regardless whether they come as Pappy’s, Max’s, or your great-aunt Helen, those aluminum tankards of icy root beer are always as good as you remember.

November 16th– When I worked at Bosco’s bookstore at Woodcroft Shopping Center back when The Kid was elementary school, I grabbed dinner there every few weeks.  But it’s been years since I enjoyed the food at Hong Kong Restaurant (4711 Hope Valley Rd).  Recently though, after a doctor’s visit Petey and I went in for take-out.

I was hoping that my favorite dish, chicken mei fun was still on the menu.  In another win for stability, they had it.  It’s a sort of fried rice dish, made with veggies and scrambled eggs, only instead of regular rice grains, it’s made with rice noodles.  And although other restaurants will say they have it on the menu, many use regular wheat noodles instead of rice; which is just all kinds of wrong.

Actually, this is beef mei fun…still yummy, though.

Hong Kong makes is right.  It’s really yummy, and you get a take-out box so full it almost won’t close for about six bucks.  It’s enough food for three very filling meals for me.

December 17th– Went up to Greensboro for my mom’s annual Christmas cookie decoration party.  As always, we had lunch at their favorite G’bo eatery, Monterrey Mexican #29 (3724 Battleground Ave, Greensboro).

The first time I ordered tacos there I was very disappointed to get the hard u-shaped grocery store taco shells.  But I was ordering the wrong item.

This time I ordered tacos Mexico style.  Was rewarded with three fresh corn tortillas stuffed with the absolute best carnitas I’ve ever had the pleasure to devour.  The meat was as silky as a prom dress.  I’ve recently decided it will be my final meal.  It’s that good.

December 30th– Tomorrow night make some fun inconsequential resolutions so that it doesn’t matter when you break them.  And try to enjoy 2016.


Thanks for your time.