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Archive for January 2nd, 2012

New Year’s Fare

As tradition, our big meal for New Year’s is probably similar to most people’s except for the main course which changes as the years change. Long ago, I was taught that in order to have plenty of health, wealth, and happiness (good luck), certain foods needed to be served (and eaten). Some say it is superstitious, but did you know that many superstitions came about for good reason? For example, walking under a ladder can be bad luck because anything can fall and hit you including the ladder. Black cats crossing one’s path can be bad luck because one can trip over the cat at night if you do not see it, and so on… So, what do we eat that is supposed to bring us health, wealth, and happiness (health and prosperity)?

First on the list are black-eyed peas. They are always on the menu. I love fresh black-eyes but dry ones will do. I cook them with bacon or hog jowls. I think they taste good but I understand it can be an acquired taste. They are considered a symbol of prosperity or good luck.

I didn’t like greens as a child (and we had plenty of them), but I have been cooking collard greens for about 20 years or so. It is a lot of work for such a small amount of greens. A mess of greens, as I often heard it called when growing up, can be prepared many different ways, but I prefer mine with ham, bacon, or hog jowls cooked to the point where they are melt in your mouth goodness with some extra salt cooked in (don’t tell the doctor). I strip out the main stalk, roll the leaves, and chop away. I don’t like to add pepper sauce (either homemade or store-bought) but my parents swore by it. My husband loves collard greens and says it is one of several foods I taught him to like, so I guess we acquired that taste together. Too bad I cannot get him to like grits, but that’s another story. Greens stand for wealth but they are also so good for you, so I lump the health and wealth together. Photo-My collard greens from this year. I cook them until they are dark green like this. It doesn’t take a lot of water. And, I boil my hog jowls or bacon before adding.

Our main entree is usually a ham, symbolizing a few things. A hog roots forward for his/her food but a ham also symbolizes wealth-a plate of plenty. There is always enough for another meal, but we don’t always have ham. I have cooked thick, center loin pork chops many years. And, for others there has been meatloaf, grilled bbq pork ribs, steak, or other. It is really a matter of choice. Fowl is said not to be eaten because it roots backwards and can fly away with your health, wealth, and happiness. Maybe that is why we have had such bad luck this year-just kidding. I have been known to cook a chicken casserole…

Other items that complement the meal are usually lima beans, pickled beets, peas and asparagus casserole (with cheese), and cornbread or rolls. I have never settled on a certain fruit for the day and I have foregone the peas and asparagus casserole because I am the only one who likes it. There are exceptions to every rule, but this is the model I try to follow. If I have bad luck or lose in health, wealth, and happiness, did my New Year’s fare cause it? No, but it is an interesting way to start the New Year.

One tradition from my childhood that still reigns to this day is watching the Tournament of Roses Parade. I try to plan my kitchen duties around it. Since it is not on until Jan 2 this year, I don’t have to worry so much. Oh, and this year we opted for grilled sirloin steak—don’t know if that will bring us luck but I hope so.

Do you have traditions you follow? Are there reasons you follow them?

Happy Gardening and Happy New Year!

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