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  • Kathryn R. Biel

New Year's Day

Last night I posted about my adventures on New Year's Eves of the past.  Today, I'm in a totally different frame of mind.  While last night, I recognized that the present was, by far, a better time than the past, today I am stuck in the past.

I am writing this blog while cooking the traditional New Year's dinner--ham.  This year, while it is very much the same, it is very different.

When I was a child, we went over to my grandmother and grandfather's house for New Year's dinner.  It was only fair--my mom cooked for Christmas, so Mimere cooked for New Year's.  We always dressed up, usually wearing the new outfit that Mimere and Pipere had given us a week prior for Christmas.  And dinner was always a canned ham.  My grandfather was, to put it mildly, a picky eater, and ham was one of the few approved dishes.  We would gather in their small flat, Pipere making the world's best mashed potatoes in the "Mixmaster." To this day, I have had none better.  Mimere would expand her enamel top table, and put a Christmas vinyl table cloth on.  A card table was set up in the corner of the kitchen with dessert trays filled with all the goodies Mimere had made.

The ham was canned and it was prepared with whole cloves on it.  When I got old enough, it became my job to put the cloves in the ham.  I liked to use a lot, much more than Mimere or my mom did.  I discovered that the ham was just big enough to spell out "KATE" in cloves.  In addition to the potatoes, there was also corn, Friehoffer's brown and serve rolls, fresh cut tomatoes and pickles.  Mimere had a set of dishes (that we just realized were Mikasa) that were full of chips.  My brother Dan hated to get a plate with chips.  When she was down to just one plate without chips (probably around 1985), Mimere received a replacement Correll set.  That set had no chips, and lasted for the rest of her life.

For some reason, Mimere pronounced 'potatoes' as 'ba-day-da's.'  I don't know why.

As the years went on, and after Pipere passed, Mimere needed more and more help with the New Year's dinner.  My brother Chris took over the mashed potatoes, and came close to how Pipere made them.

Eventually, we began having New Year's dinner at either my house or my mom's house.  We graduated to spiral cut hams and never looked back.  We evolved from brown and serve rolls to crescent rolls, and now to Sister Schubet's yeast rolls. And we realized that Mimere loved scalloped potatoes.  I think my mom probably always knew it.  But, since Pipere did not like them, Mimere never cooked them.  I began attempting scalloped potatoes, trying out various recipes (and just to clarify, they are technically au gratin potatoes because they have cheese on them, but we have always called them scalloped).  They are a tremendous amount of work and can go horribly wrong.  Some years, the slicing of the potatoes resulted in quasi-serious injuries.  However, my mom received a definitely serious injury from opening a ham can one Easter, but I digress...

And every year, when Mimere realized that there were scalloped potatoes, she would tell us that they were her favorite.   She was observed to eat a hearty portion, and always wanted left overs.  In short, New Year's dinner made her happy.

So this year, it's different.  We have no Mimere.  She did not live to see 2012.  My mom is in Florida with my brother, so she's not here either.  We are having dinner at normal dinner time, rather than mid-afternoon. Mimere didn't like to eat late or be out late, which was why we always had holiday dinners around 2 pm.  I'm certainly not dressed up.

But, if for no other reason than to honor Mimere, we are having scalloped badaydas.

Mimere and my mom, January 1, 2011. It was her last New Year's Day.

Jake with his grandmother and great-grandmother. You can see that dinner was a good tablecloth and china kind of affair.

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