Texas New Year's

Traditions, Foods & Hangover Remedies


Aside from celebrating New Year's Eve with good friends and family, Texans have a few other traditions they enjoy like consuming interesting alcoholic concoctions, eating chilaquiles to ward off hangovers, and ensuring good luck with a batch of black-eyed peas.

Something else that customarily occurs during this particular holiday is our tendency to over-consume alcoholic beverages, which amazingly enough seems to enhance our ability to sing and dance better than any other time of year. In fact, I'm thinking about inviting one of those reality shows to my party just to prove how good I am.

Seriously though, what really causes us to become inebriated (drunk) and what can we do to prevent that morning after misery, short of abstaining from alcohol? Well, it's really pretty simple. Alcohol causes dehydration and loss of glucose, plus certain types of alcohol and mixed drinks cause dehydration even more quickly. Dark beverages, such as red wine and whiskey, contain more of the natural byproducts of fermentation called congeners, which is believed to contribute to the inflammation that worsens alcohol headaches. Doctors recommend that if you do drink, try to stay with clear liquors and avoid coffee or sodas that contain caffeine, since they also dehydrate the brain.

Here are some tips to help avoid that severe hangover:
  • Drink clear alcoholic beverages.
  • Avoid too much caffeine.
  • Drink water, tomato or cranberry juice between drinks to help re-hydrate your body and replace lost glucose due to alcohol consumption. Gatorade and PowerAde are also excellent choices throughout the evening or before bed because they replace electrolytes (potassium and sodium) and water that is lost.
  • Eat greasy foods. Believe it or not, greasy foods are full of carbohydrates, which coat your stomach and slow the absorption of alcohol. The carbohydrates also turn into sugar, which is good because alcohol causes a drop in sugar levels in your body.
Speaking of greasy foods, did you know that there is a particular dish known as the Hangover Cure? It's called chilaquiles (pronounced chee-lah-kee-lehs), which is a spicy meal originating in Mexico to use up leftovers, and generally includes foods like chicken, cheese, jalapeños and always tortillas. Although the Mexicans believed that spicy foods cured hangovers, it was actually the grease and carbs that did the trick.

Chiliquiles has been in the States since the late 1800s, but its incredible "curative properties" have increased in popularity so much the name was expanded to include Levanta los Muertos, meaning "to raise the dead". This wonder food can be served during your New Year's Eve festivities or prepared ahead of time and dished up the following morning with a side of eggs.

Another tradition for those of us in the south is eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day.

There's an interesting story about black-eyed peas and a man named Elmore Torn, Sr. (father of actor Rip Torn) who lived in Henderson County, Texas. As it goes, Elmore was hired by the Henderson County Chamber of Commerce to promote business. The problem was that the only industry in Henderson County was oil, farming, a pottery manufacturer and a cannery that canned, among other things, black-eyed peas.

Well, old Elmore was pretty sharp and came up with a story that alleged eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day was not only a long-standing, southern tradition, but that they also brought good luck for the year ahead. He went on to include in his essay that after the Civil War, the Yankees tried to stamp out the memory of this tradition, which was a travesty considering that even General Robert E. Lee and Confederacy President Jefferson Davis partook of this lucky food.

When Elmore presented his tale to the Henderson Chamber of Commerce, they liked it so much they printed up several hundred fliers in the hope of a prosperous outcome. Elmore rushed over to the cannery and had them make up an equal number of two-ounce sample cans of black-eyed peas and shipped both the peas and fliers off to editors of many major daily newspapers.

No one is sure just how many fell for the hoax, but Elmore continued his crusade for years afterward and was declared (by Texans anyway) to be the originator of the lucky New Year's black-eyed pea tradition. Or was he?

Unless old Elmore Torn was around about the year 500, his lucky black-eyed pea idea preceded him. History tells that it was the Babylonian Talmud (outlining Jewish law) that wrote the following:

Abaye said, now that you have said that an omen is significant, at the beginning of each year, each person should accustom himself to eat gourds, black-eyed peas, fenugreek…

Regardless of the origin, black-eyed peas are still considered to be lucky in Texas and the southern United States.

Now, since TexasCooking.com already has some mighty tasty black-eyed pea recipes listed in their Grandma’s Cookbook, I'll leave you to search through for your favorite, but here's the recipe for Chilaquiles and a couple of formulas for making some Texas-style mixed drinks.

And, if you're searching for something to do for New Year's Eve, take a look at the Texas Events Calendar on Texana/Texascooking.com. If you don't find what you're looking for there, you can always check the Internet site for the Texas Chamber of Commerce/Tourism Bureau for your particular city by typing in 2chambers.com. Maybe you'll find some of Elmore's relatives advertising a shindig that you can crash!

Here's Wishing Y'all a Safe, Happy and Prosperous New Year, and please remember to Drink Responsibly!

Chilaquiles (Chilaquiles Lavanta Los Muertos)

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
  • 10 to 12 corn tortillas cut into 1-inch wide strips
  • 1 cup Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup cooking oil
  • Sour Cream
More New Year's
  • 2 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 medium white onion (hold back 1/4 of the onion and dice)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 jalapeños, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
Using a knife or scissors, cut tortillas into 1-inch wide strips. Heat 1 cup of cooking oil in a large skillet over high heat and place tortilla strips by the handful into the oil and fry until golden brown, about 10 to 15 seconds. Remove tortillas and drain on a paper towel-covered dish. Continue until all tortillas are fried.

Put the chicken breasts in a medium pot and fill with water, covering them with 1-inch of the water. Add the garlic and the 3/4 of the white onion (cut in chunks) and bring to a boil until chicken is fully cooked, about 20 minutes. Remove chicken, onion and garlic, and retain 1/2 cup of the broth. Set chicken aside to cool on a cutting board.

Place the onion, garlic, jalapeño, tomatoes, chicken broth, salt and pepper in a blender and purée. Pour the puréed sauce into a skillet and cook over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. While sauce is cooking, begin to shred chicken by holding the breast with a fork and shredding thin strips off with another fork. Place chicken into the sauce for the last 5 minutes of cooking. Remove sauce from heat and set aside.

Oil a 1.5-quart (6-cup) pan or casserole dish and begin to layer fried tortilla strips over the bottom, then spoon sauce over the top, cover with shredded cheese and repeat until all ingredients are used and topped with cheese. Cover dish with foil and bake in a 350°F preheated oven for about 20 minutes.

Chilaquiles can be topped with the reserved chopped onion and/or sour cream. Serve with creamy refried beans. If you're making this for breakfast, dish it up with fried or scrambled eggs on the side. Makes 6 to 10 servings, depending upon appetites.

Texas Sunset

  • 1 ounce vodka, such as Texas' own Tito's Vodka
  • 1/2 ounce apricot brandy
  • 3/4 ounce white rum
  • 1 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 2 ounce orange juice
  • 1/2 ounce sugar water
  • 3/4 ounce grenadine (use this last)
  • Crushed ice
Mix all ingredients together and pour over crushed ice in a 10-to12-ounce glass topped with grenadine. Makes 1 drink.

Texas Rose

  • 1 ounce bourbon
  • 2 ounces orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon maraschino cherry juice
  • 2 ounces champagne, chilled
Blend the bourbon, orange and maraschino juice together. Add the champagne and serve in a champagne flute or other 6-ounce glass. Makes 1 drink.

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