SOUTHERN NEW YEAR’S DAY FOOD TRADITIONS
Southern New Year’s Day Food Traditions – What Do They Mean?
Even though you may still be working on the last of the Christmas ham, there is one more day to cook for – and it may be the MOST important – New Year’s Day!
Americans from South of the Mason-Dixie line have long considered the traditional Southern New Year’s Day meal to be extremely important in setting the foundation – and LUCK – for the whole year!
What Do Southern Food Traditions Mean?
January 1 offers an opportunity to forget the past and make a clean start. The centerpiece of many New Year’s traditions (or suspicions!) involves food, and they are meant to ensure the next year will be a great one.
Just a few of the tasty major categories considered fortunate – grapes, greens, fish, pork, legumes, and cakes. Whether you want to create a full menu of lucky foods or just supplement your meal, an assortment of choices abound, guaranteed to make for a happy new year, or at least a very happy belly.
Lucky Meal #1 – Cooked Greens
Cooked greens, including cabbage, collards, turnip, kale, and chard, are consumed at New Year’s in different countries for a simple reason — their green leaves look like folded money.
Who doesn’t like MONEY? In the South, collards or turnip greens are the green of choice. It’s widely believed that the more greens one eats the larger one’s fortune next year.
Peas and Beans
Legumes including beans, peas, and lentils are symbolic of money. Their small, seedlike appearance resembles coins that swell when cooked so they are consumed with financial rewards in mind.
No self-respecting Southerner would risk their luck by skipping black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day.
Eating peas to begin the year traces back to the legend that during the Civil War, the town of Vicksburg, Mississippi, was under attack and the Yankees had already ransacked the food reserves.
While the Northern soldiers had stolen all the stored food, the plain dried peas were left behind because the enemy army thought they were just feed for cattle. The residents of Vicksburg fortunately discovered the left-behind legumes and used them to feed the hungry, allowing them to survive the cold, bleak winter.
Ever since, black-eyed peas have been thought to be lucky. Often this tasty treat is made with….
The custom of eating delicious pork on New Year’s is based on the idea that pigs symbolize progress. The animal pushes forward, rooting itself in the ground before moving, reminding us of always moving forward in the new year. Pork is rich in fat, so it signifies wealth and prosperity.
But Don’t Eat…
Chicken is discouraged because the bird scratches backwards, so those who eat it will “scratch” for their food all year. Another theory warns against eating any winged fowl because good luck could fly away.
Same goes for lobster – it moves backward and can cause a “setback”.
And Don’t Forget!
Fill your pantry before midnight – this practice symbolizes starting the start New Year with abundance!
Happy New Year!
“Hoppin’ John” is a very flexible recipe open to many variations. You can use salt pork, hog jowl, ham hock, or bacon for seasoning and richness.
If a rowdy New Year’s party keeps you from remembering the the overnight soaking step, you can always ‘quick soak’ dried peas by bringing them to a boil for 10 minutes, remove the pan from the heat and soak for an hour. Drain, change the water then cook on medium until soft.
(You can use canned peas, but you didn’t hear it from me! If you MUST, use Trappey’s Black Eye Peas with Jalapeno.)
The “Hoppin’ John” recipe below is spicy and rich from the pork fat. If you prefer, a quick squeeze fresh lemon adds freshness and cuts a little of that right before serving. Ladle over piping hot rice and a nice slab of golden cornbread (looks like sunshine!)
Happy New Year!
- 2 Tablespoons Butter
- 1 small onion diced
- 1 can Rotel tomatoes
- 2 cups black-eyed peas simmered with ham hock
- 2 cups rice cooked
- Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Soften onion in butter for about 5 minutes. Add peas, tomatoes, and garlic powder, to taste, cook an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve over hot rice.
“Cash Flow” Collard Greens
“Cash Flow” Collard Greens (or Turnip Greens)
- 6 Tbsp butter
- 1 large yellow onion diced
- 1/2 lb smoked meat
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 lb bag collard greens (or turnip greens) pre-washed with ribs removed
- 1-2 Tbsp bacon grease optional
- In a 3-quart saucepan, melt 2 Tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until it begins to soften, about 3 minutes. Add 2 ½ cups water and the smoked meat and seasonings. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer, cover and cook the meat for 30 minutes.Add the greens, they will fill the pot, but they will cook down very quickly. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and cook the greens until they are tender, 20 to 40 minutes, depending on how tender your greens are and how soft you like them.Add the bacon grease, if using, and the remaining butter. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.Tip: You can use 1 -2 bunches of fresh greens instead of the bagged greens. Make sure to wash well, dry and remove the tough, fibrous ribs.