Generally the day before New Year’s Eve in the kitchen pots are clanging and pans are banging in preparation of The Good Luck Feast, and dishes that represent Southern tradition are on my New Year’s Day menu. Many of the recipes have been passed down from generation to generation. Over the years variations have been tried and the rivalry between family members to show off their own culinary expertise has brought some very interesting results.
The soul food that shared centers around a love of food and family, memories of those gone before us and a rich cultural heritage. There are some staples of the New Year’s feast that a down-home cook must always include to guarantee a year of prosperity and much-deserved accolades.
- Greens & Pot Likker: Collards (most popular) mustards, turnips or a mix of the three. Greens represent money, particularly folding money (I’ll take 100’s please).
- Cornbread: The deep yellow of a skillet of cornbread represents gold coins to fill your purse.
- Black-eyed peas: There are many explanations for the symbolism of these simple legumes. My mother insisted they were an absolute for every New Year’s meal, even though no one ever seemed to eat them. As I researched the symbolism of traditional Southern dishes I discovered the history of black-eyed peas as central in the “good luck” meal. The dry beans resemble small coins and are said to represent humility and a lack of vanity – “Eat poor the first of the year and live fat the rest of the year.” An additional interpretation is that beans expand in water symbolizing expanding wealth. Black-eyed peas are also said to represent the Emancipation of African-American slaves which were officially freed on New Year’s Day after the Civil war. Traditionally black-eyed peas are prepared very simply, boiled with a little salt pork and are extremely bland. I must admit I disliked them immensely until I learned to enhance the dish with spices, peppers and pork. They are now the main dish in my New Year’s meal.
- Pork: A staple of almost every southern meal – “A pig in every pot.” The parts of the pig can vary. Slaves were given parts of the pig not generally used for cooking. Good cooks are adventurous and creative. Most of us have someone in our family that can make a meal from little or nothing. Imagination and seasoning make for tasty dishes from pigs feet to maws and chitterlings. Pigs forage forward, this represents forward momentum in to the new year.
Whether you believe in “peas for pennies, greens for dollars or bread for gold,” as good luck in the new year or not, these dishes are sure to afford you some mighty good eating.
Wishing You and Yours A Blessed (prosperous) 2018!
12oz package dry black-eyed peas
2-3 meaty ham hocks
½ c red bell pepper diced
½ c green bell pepper diced
¾ c onion diced
1 stalk celery chopped
2 cloves garlic crushed
2 tsps. Turmeric
½ tsp cayenne pepper
Salt & pepper to taste
Cover beans in water and soak overnight. Drain and sort. In a dutch oven saute vegetables with spices, add ham hocks, cover with water. Cook meat ½ hour add beans cook until meat is tender. Check beans occasionally you may need to add more hot water. Approximately 2 ½ to 3 hours. May be cooked in a crockpot overnight. You may use frozen beans. Cook meat thoroughly before adding beans.
Tip: when cooking beans & greens add ½ to 1 tsp baking soda to the boiling pot. It’ll foam for a few minutes releasing gases that can cause discomfort to sensitive digestive systems. 😊