New Years

chinese-dragon.jpgChinese New Year or the spring festival celebration lasts for 15 days starting with a parade headed by a large size red dragon dancing its way through the streets and businesses of Chinatown. In Boston, the New Year started with a bang! Firecrackers were exploding loudly echoing on the narrow street, lettuce leaves and orange peels were littering the pavement in the wake of the dragon,tossed to symbolize prosperity and good fortune.

The date for the new year changes every year. It is based on a combination of the Chinese lunar/solar calendar. Chinese New Year is always celebrated on the second moon after the winter solstice. That is why the date is never the same. Chinatown is decorated with red lanterns (red for good luck). Bright red packets with gold writing hang from all the trees outside and plants in restaurants symbolizing lucky money and everyone has been sweeping and cleaning their houses, sweeping out any bad luck from the past year.

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potato crispyny2011 2New Years Eve is upon us. Before kids, the hubs and I would pick a great restaurant, go out with friends, drink too much, and spend way too much money. After several years of that, we switched to cooking an amazing meal at home, made great cocktails, invited friends, and played board games until dawn.

Then we started a family. When Eli was young, we grabbed my parents and made 6p.m. reservations at The Palm. Came home, put on our sweats, and played games. We now bring in the New Year with friends, great food, cocktails, and lots of board games. The kids like to stay up until 12 (I rarely make it) and the evening usually ends with someone else’s kid sleeping here, and one of ours sleeping elsewhere.

This year we are having cocktails with friends. A light snack of cripsy potato skins and a simple “French Blonde Cocktail” to start off the evening. After that, a huge Tripoli match is on tap along with chocolate lava cakes. Let’s just hope I make it until 9p.m. That way I can at least bring in the New Year, east coast time!

Happy New Year everyone. Thanks for filling my year with blessings and gratitude.

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diet_plans.jpgJanuary is the traditional month for new diets. I get kind of amused reading this week's Time magazine which chose 3 of the new diet books to review. The first one disallows wine, salt, sugar and artificial sweetener. The second forbids carbonated drinks, coffee, gassy foods including cabbage. The third forbids dairy, white rice, and processed foods. And the last one forbids volume. Eat anything you want but just choose small portions.

Are you beginning to see a pattern here? Why does every new diet start off by telling you what you cannot eat?

People have had problems with excess weight ever since mankind began to grow food. The hunters and gatherers weren't fat. They spent a lot of time just searching for food and were grateful for what they could find. And the game and berries they found also spent time searching for nourishment and water and didn't store fat either.

But that was then. This is now. We are besotted with food, drink, choices, and chance. What on earth can we do?

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“Eat poor that day, eat rich the rest of the year… Rice for riches and peas for peace.” – Old Southern saying for New Year’s Menu

newyearsfood.jpgCollard greens, black eyed peas, cornbread and pork are the foodstuffs of the South, rich in legend, lore, and superstition. Money or not, every Southern family I know dines on these same vittles for their New Year’s supper. Not too poor of eating if I say so myself.

According to this Farmer, the New Year’s Day menu is a Southern supper at its finest. Steeped in tradition, flavored with history, and doused with a touch of superstition, this meal encompasses the South’s ebb and flow of classicism and eccentricity–a meal of our heritage. Here in America’s Deep South, the cultures of Europe, Africa and the Native Americans combine with their respected refinements and sentimentalities making this meal fit to usher in a new year.

Growing up in rural Middle Georgia, we knew our food’s legacy before it arrived on our tables. This Farm to Table movement of late has always been the custom for those of us raised in a more bucolic fashion. We know our farmers and growers. In his blessings before a meal, my brother-in-law’s father always gives thanks for “not only the hands that prepared the food but grew it as well...” whereas our New Year’s meal is of no exception.

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Image“Now, I go on a diet.”

It is eight days into the new year when my temporary house dad in Rome has turned to me and said this. I look at his wife and I joke, “That is possible in Italy?”

Both laughing, “Yes it is.”

I think to myself, ‘Diet…in Italy. Maybe.’ Then I think, ‘Maybe if I don’t eat along my tour of the north which I will be leaving for in a day, I can do an Italian diet—on both my calories and my wallet.’

Not possible. I repeat—Not possible, especially when Torino, Italy, home of the best chocolate in the world is on the list—especially when the 12th day of the 2011 means being barricaded by city walls of chocolate, cream, pastries, and gelato, especially when I have a sweet tooth that I don’t think the tooth fairy will ever collect from me…and especially when the city of Torino even has something called a chocolate pass which allows you to tour all the chocolate of the city within two days. Keeping to my wallet diet, I avoided the chocolate pass…but still didn’t avoid the chocolate. This is how I broke every basic New Years Resolution in the first fifteen days of the year.

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