A New Year's Menu, Traditional and New

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Photo by Regina Charboneau

We Southerners love our traditions old and new.

I love Christmas and all the festivities so much that it begins for me the day after Thanksgiving. I have a standing order with a local vendor, Mr. Whiskers, who always provides me with the most perfect 11-foot tree, which he promptly delivers Friday morning and it all begins. I decorate my tree with every ornament I own including a tradition I began over twenty years ago adding gumdrops, chocolate coins and gingerbread men. As committed as I am to this tradition, Tipsy, our Labrador retriever, usually eats all the gingerbread she can reach by December 1st. I love every minute of the holiday season and every tradition we share at our house and my mother's family home so much so that I hate to see Christmas Day end.

New Year's Day is filled with traditional Southern dishes that are considered sacred where I live.

I do not stay sad for long because within a week from the time Christmas ends there are more New Year's traditions packed into a 24-hour period than all of the other traditions during the year. There is kissing at midnight and if your date or spouse is not there for that, they can assure themselves a year of the cold shoulder. The first footing where the person who first steps foot into your home has an effect on your year, I have always been told it should be a tall, dark, and handsome man. That works for me. Then they say (whoever they are) nothing should go out on New Year's Day. All of those are insignificant compared to the menu dos and don'ts in the South.

After so many years of elaborate New Year's menus and New Year's Eve parties at my restaurants I so love my new tradition of a simple, Southern-style Cioppino (Italian fish stew) and staying home on New Year's. No cocktail dress, no crowded restaurant, and--I never thought I would say these words--"the simpler the better."

Although Twin Oaks has been our home for nearly 8 years, it was the home of Dr. Whittington and his family for over 60 years, so I knew it was filled with traditions of its own. When I was writing Regina's Table at Twin Oaks I called Dr. Whittington's daughter to ask her to share one dish that seemed a tradition here at Twin Oaks and she immediately said, "Crepes Suzette." It seemed only right to keep a food tradition of someone who lived for so many years in this home. How perfect and simple--cioppino, crusty French bread, and crepes Suzette, nothing else.

New Year's Day is filled with traditional Southern dishes that are considered sacred where I live. Whether you are at a party with hundreds or home with one, I know of one tradition we all share: trying to remember the words to that song that we all fake the words to. But no matter how the words come out it seems to touch us all and make us go into each year hopeful and bright.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,

 For auld lang syne,

We'll take a cup of kindness yet,

For auld lang syne!