It’s the day before New Year’s Eve and in the kitchen, pots are clanging and pans are banging as the Good Luck Feast is being prepared. In our deli, the dishes that represent years of Southern tradition are on our New Year’s Day menu. Many of these 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 resulted in some very interesting results. The “soul food” that we share centers around our love of food, family, and the memories of those gone before us, steeped in our rich cultural heritage. There are some staples of the New Year’s feast that a down-home girl must always include to guarantee a year of prosperity and of course, much-deserved accolades.
- Greens & Pot Likker: collards (the 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 Day 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 our “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 Years 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 smoked pork hocks or sausage. They are now the central dish in my New Year’s Day meal.
- Pork: In the South, this was 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 in the main house. Many of the slave cooks were adventurous and creative and learned to make unique and tasty meals from the most unlikely ingredients. “Chittlin’s”, Hog Maws, Pig Ears, or Pig Feet when prepared with imagination, herbs, seasonings, roots, and vegetables make for a delectable main dish. Most of us have someone in our family that has passed down those old methods & recipes steeped in our rich African culture. We can make a meal from “little or nothing” and make it a feast. Pigs forage forward, this represents forward momentum into the New Year.
Whether you believe in “peas for pennies, greens for dollars or bread for gold” as good luck in the New Year, these dishes are sure to guarantee some mighty good eating.
Wishing You and Yours A Blessed (prosperous) 2021!
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. Will foam for a few minutes releasing gases that can cause discomfort to sensitive digestive systems. 😊