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HUCKABY: How to usher in a new year

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

We are about a week into the new year and I have yet to break a resolution. That is because I have finally learned not to make them. I have, however, arranged to make sure that I have the very best of luck in 2011.

First on the agenda was taking care of the New Year's Eve ceremony of watching the old year flee and ushering the new one in. Right after midnight, while the other folks at our house were toasting and kissing and wondering why Dick Clark didn't just stay home -- bless his heart -- I dutifully threw open the back door on the first stroke of midnight and then raced through the house to open the front door.

You have to let the old year out, you see, before the new one comes in. Otherwise the new year will learn bad habits from the old. At least that's what my mama said. Her mama was part-Cherokee, so she knew these things.

I know. I missed my New Year's kiss. That's OK. The last time I got one of those, Herschel Walker was a freshman.

Prior to midnight we had made sure that all of our laundry was clean, ironed and put away because you aren't supposed to carry any dirty laundry over into the new year, and heaven forbid you wash clothes on New Year's Day. You might as well sign a death warrant for your friends and relatives because if you do laundry on Jan. 1 you will be washing someone out of your life in the coming year. It is as certain as sin and taxes.

Same thing if you sweep something out the back door, which I would never do, or throw a hat on a bed. And in case you want to start a list for next year -- the first person in your door in the new year has to be a man. Don't ask me why. I don't make them up, I just abide by them. I am not superstitious, understand. I just don't like to take chances.

It goes without saying, even though I am about to say it, that the New Year's Day dinner is the most important meal of the year. The menu is of monumental importance as any self-respecting Southerner will tell you.

You absolutely must eat black-eyed peas. They are supposed to bring you luck. Now some folks say this belief dates back to the recent unpleasantness between the North and the South. They say that when Gen. Sherman's army passed through Georgia they took everything but the salt pork and black-eyed peas and it was those staples that sustained the beleaguered Southerners through the long hard winter of 1865. They felt lucky to have them, in other words.

I'm not sure I buy that. I have studied history most of my life and have seen "Gone With the Wind" 97 times. There was nothing lucky about the aftermath of the March to the Sea.

Greens, of course, must go with the peas. Many people insist that the greens must be collards, although others insist that turnip greens are just as good. Forget about mustard and kale though. They are Yankee foods and you might as well be eating rutabagas and broccoli. And the black-eyed peas and collards must be accompanied by some form of pork roast -- otherwise the luck won't stick. I had all that stuff on New Year's Day -- along with crackling cornbread and sweet potatoes. I cooked my collards in lard and seasoned my peas with fatback. I ate a double helping of everything, sprinkling my vegetables liberally with pepper sauce from last year's crop, and I sopped up the last drop of pot liquor and washed it all down with sweet iced tea.

I am good to go, understand. I am well-vested in 2011.

Or so I thought. My luck held until the fourth day of the year when I found myself in the doctor's office being probed and poked and prodded. They took large amounts of blood from my veins -- one cubic centimeter is a large amount to me -- and stuck me under all sorts of machines.

I was enduring all these tests because I had suffered with chronic stomach pain since Halloween. My lovely wife, Lisa assured me that the only thing wrong with me is that I am too fat and that diet and exercise would solve everything. I was convinced, of course, that I had a fatal illness, so I submitted to every test in my doctor's arsenal.

He called me back the next day and told me that I was just fat and that diet and exercise would fix everything. See. The collards and black-eyed peas are working already.

Happy New Year, y'all!

Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. E-mail him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net.