Since moving to the South, learning traditional food-ways (especially those of Appalachian influence) has shaped nearly every aspect of my everyday cooking. I am grateful beyond words for those who have shared their traditions and stories with me, from my late Grandmother-in-law Zelma's sour cream pound cake to all the local producers who are bringing back the old ways, keeping things like sorghum syrup and fresh gristmill grits on the table. These individuals have added a richness to my personal sense of place greater than any other I have once called home.
To these mountains;
to the food gleaned from them,
to the people within them
and too all those beyond----
my deepest gratitude
a most prosperous
~My brief rundown of why we eat what we do on the 1st of each New Year. From Wednesday's Asheville Citizen Times. ~
A Southerner’s guide to lucky New Year’s foods
New Year’s holds special culinary traditions across the globe. Most regions include some type of meat, greens and a legume to represent good fortune and prosperity. Since most New Year’s customs are rooted in the immigration and agricultural history of a place, each region celebrates the holiday with unique representations of good luck.
In the South, pork, leafy greens and black-eyed peas are most commonly on the New Year’s menu. Here is a little background as to why:
Black-eyed peas have various reasons for making it on to the New Year’s Day list.
Part of the Jewish celebration of Rosh Hashanah for centuries, black-eyed-peas were brought to the U.S. by Sephardic Jews arriving in Georgia in the 1700s.
Before this, black-eyed peas — domesticated in Africa more than 5,000 years ago — are thought to have originally arrived in the South on slave ships during the mid-1600s, becoming a significant representation of African-American influence on southern agriculture and cuisine.
Mistaken as cattle food, black-eyed peas were left untouched after raids by the Northern Army during the civil war, offering confederate soldiers a critical food source, thus representing good luck.
Also thought to resemble coins, black-eyed peas symbolize financial luck for the coming year. Others believe this particular legume is chosen on New Year’s because they expand so generously, also representing financial gain.
The most common southern black-eyed-pea dish is known affectionately as Hoppin’ John, the leftovers given the name Skippin’ Jenny. Hoppin’ John is traditionally prepared with black-eyed peas or field peas, cooked rice, salt pork or hog jowls and vegetables. Children would often “skip” around the table when it was served.
It is advised among some to eat at least 365 black-eyed-peas on New Year’s day to ensure good luck for each day of the new year.
Pork, a commodity abundant in the South, is often thought of as good luck since a pig’s nature is to root forward and not look back, encouraging us to do the same in the coming year.
In contrast, to consume fowl on New Year’s is thought by some to bring bad luck since birds scratch backward and bring the association of “scratching for sustenance.”
In Southern culture, and many others, pork is a traditional symbol of prosperity and security for the less abundant winter months. Traditionally, a family with a summer fattened hog had little to worry about in the months to come. This is why pork is often thought of as good luck.
And because pork is marbled with fat, consuming pork on New Year’s Day is thought to bring “fat” times.
Leafy greens seem to be included in most regional menus on New Year’s since green represents the U.S. currency.
Polish and German communities greatly influence the traditions of the Midwest, including the consumption of sauerkraut on New Year’s. Cabbage, a late fall crop, takes 6-8 weeks to properly ferment, ready just in time for January meals.
In the South, collards, kale and turnip greens are cold-hardy enough to show up in winter dishes. A flat leaf resembling folding money, collards are the most popular New Year’s choice for Southerners.
Lastly, to continue the tradition of eating foods for monetary luck, the color gold is not to be ignored in a Southern New Year’s feast. This color is usually represented by cornbread, another agriculturally significant food of southern states.
Native Americans were the first to bake with ground corn, passing on the method to early settlers. When wheat was scarce, corn could be used in its place for baking. Traditional corn bread is made with little or no flour, no sugar and plenty of lard.
This year, make sure to embrace the power of tradition and set your intentions high. Begin Jan. 1 with black-eyed-peas for coins, greens for folding money and cornbread for gold. With this combination, brought together by a lucky pork roast — may we strive to move forward and not look back — the upcoming year should be off to a lucky start.