A Bit of Real Life, Chit Chat, New York

New Year’s Cuisine, Clinton-Hill Style

Before I get to MTV, a quickie on growing up on Myrtle and Clinton Avenues in the ’70s and ’80s.

My grandmother, a southern woman from Virginia, always made New Year’s dinner, including collard greens for money/prosperity, and black-eyed peas & pork for good luck and health. Unfortunately, my family enjoyed every part of pork I hated: pigs’ pigs_feetfeet, pigtails, hog maws, fatback, chitterlings/”chitlins” (the smell of which still makes me dry heave) et al. To make fun of me—the only child and the youngest in a small family—my aunts, cousin, and uncle would all exaggerate eating their meals, dramatically gnawing on gristle and fat, shoving a pungently vinegared pig’s foot under my nose for my horrified Pavlovian response, and generally making me nauseated.

Grandma, however, always had my back. She’d go out of her way to fry one lone pork chop just for me. “No one eats Nira’s chop!” she’d yell, wrapping it in foil and setting it on the pilot light to stay warm while she finished making cornbread and other sides. While everyone mixed their food together, I had my sides on a dinner plate and my chop on a separate little saucer. Nobody was feeling my pathetic little piece of meat (which never looked like the picture on WordPress)–unless I couldn’t finish it. (Then, everyone was putting dibs on the bone.) But the inclusion always made me very, quietly pleased.

My aunt grumbled once she took over the cooking later on: “She needs to try these pigtails. Does she know I can’t buy just ONE of these things?” I was around 20 when I gave this any real thought; I never remember grandma buying a pack of pork chops. There were still butcher shops in the area though, and I’m guessing she was able to politely request one chop, every year, for her granddaughter, who was a picky eater but needed to be a part of this annual family tradition. Because of her I always think of New Year’s meals with fond, giggly memories. I was the one-chop girl, and she helped me be proud of this.

I hope you had a wonderful New Year’s Day with friends, family, or quietly reflecting in solitude. Now, let’s dig into 2014, with its comfy, hearty classics and shiny, new customs yet to be discovered. Cheers.

ny dinner