So, the last day of the year. If you had asked me at this time last year, “Hey, what are the chances you will welcome in 2012 from your new home in downtown St. Francisville?”, I would have reported you to the principal for smoking crack. And yet, here I am, on a cool, rainy day, writing you from just that place. That happy place.

This was a crappy year. My sister died. I said goodbye to some wonderful friends in Philadelphia. But I gained a new appreciation for my hometown, for my family, for my cultural heritage, and for the wonderful people of this town. I’m making new friends. And, as my dad said to me the other day when I came over to pick up the grandkids, “It’s so great that when y’all leave now, you aren’t leaving for the airport.”

That’s pretty great.

You know what else is great? It’s raining outside, one of those slow Louisiana rains, and I can open my kitchen door right now and put my bare feet on wet red brick. That’s what south Louisiana feels like to me. And I love it. Hey, you never know what the new year will bring, good and bad both.

Happy New Year, y’all. Tell us what your 2011 was like.

UPDATE: Holy crap. My cousin Daniel, a professionally trained chef (as is his wife Amy), is in my kitchen now. They’re our dinner guests. He’s making dessert.

“What are you making?” I asked.

Said he, “A little something inspired by my hero, Joel Robuchon.”

Those words have never been spoken in any kitchen of mine. I think I might pass out — and I’ve only just started drinking wine.