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Traditional New Year’s Foods

January 1st, 2010 · No Comments

I live in the South.  We have a traditional menu or food for every occasion.   There are traditional foods for everything from weddings to funerals to holidays and each food has some symbolism attached to it.  New Year’s is no exception and it brings not one food but several.

The family gathers each New Years day to eat hog jowl, collard greens and black eyed peas.  This year we are adding stewed tomatoes to the menu.  They don’t really have any traditional meaning but they go really well with the black eyed peas.

Black Eyed Peas are supposed to bring us wisdom in the coming year as the eye looks to the future.  Some also believe that they bring prosperity as the swelling of the dried beans as they are cooked symbolizes the swelling of the family fortunes over the coming year.  Whichever you believe, this is a simple dish to cook which bodes well for those who spent too much time celebrating on New Year’s eve.

Collard greens or greens of any type are also supposed to bring prosperity.  It is said that the leaves of the collard look like folded money when they are cooking.  Again, I’m not so sure I see the resemblance except for the fact that they are both green.  Regardless, they are delicious and very healthy.  Dark leafy greens contain tons of antioxidants including lutein which is supposed to help protect your eyes.

The last component of the traditional New Years Day supper is hog jowl.  Hog jowl is much like bacon only it comes from the jowl of the pig.  R fries it like bacon and it is delicious when eaten on a biscuit or even by itself.   Hog jowl is supposed to bring good health.  I have not been able to trace this tradition back to anything that explains it but we are going to include it because it is dang tasty.

One legend that I have heard regarding this menu is that it dates back to Civil War when the Union troops slaughtered all the livestock and took all the provisions from southern farms and households.  The only thing that they left behind was what they considered inedible such as  black eyed peas, ham hocks and heads.  Greens which grow all year in the south.  The southerners sustained themselves through the winter on what the Union troops left behind.

I am not sure that any of these foods bring health, wealth or wisdom but then again, why tempt fate when this tradition brings a simple, inexpensive meal is both delicious and easy to cook.  Menus such as this are also a reason why folks in the country will have an easier time surviving in tough economic times.  There is little waste and the foods are simple and inexpensive and usually home grown.

What are your New Year’s traditions?  Do you have a traditional meal on New Year’s day?

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