Archive for December 31st, 2015

Many cultures observe unique traditions on special occasions. People begin the new year with food customs in an attempt to assure health, happiness, and prosperity. Worldwide, several foods such as cakes, grapes, fish, pork, greens, and legumes represent good luck.

Cakes and other pastries are often enjoyed from Christmas through New Year’s Day. Commonly round in shape, they consist of many different flavors. Some incorporate a variety of fruits and may include an object inside, such as a coin. The lucky person to find the object in a serving is assured great success in the coming year.

The Spanish consider grapes a way to achieve prosperity. The tradition dates back to 1909 when grape growers in one region initiated a way to use excesses from the year’s harvest. They eat twelve grapes at midnight, one for each stroke of the clock. The custom later spread to other countries.

The consuming of fish, especially cod, to start the new year dates back to the Middle Ages. Certain types of fish were preserved and safely transported to other areas. Likewise, cured herring remains a popular fish in Poland and Germany.

To many, pork symbolizes progress. Pigs push or root forward in the ground and serves as a symbol of moving forward. Roast pig is popular in several countries including Cuba, Italy, Spain , Portugal, Hungary, Austria, and the United States. Southern states favor ham hock, usually used to season cooked greens or their choice of legumes.

Cooked greens are common in many cultures. They signify money and indicate fortune for the coming year. The Danish choose kale with a touch of sugar and cinnamon. Germans and many other regions eat cabbage or sauerkraut, while southerners in the United States make collard greens their choice.

Legumes also symbolize money since the tiny peas/beans enlarge as they cook to represent  expanding fortunes. Southern Americans often cook black-eyed peas with hog jowl. The most well-known treat for prosperity in that region is Hoppin’ John. For a history of this delightful dish, see my blog of September 19, 2011. That blog also includes my favorite recipe which I have repeated here for you to consider this New Year’s Day. It’s quick and easy to prepare.

Whatever your choice of food for good luck, make it healthy and enjoy the delights of many healthful foods during the coming year. Happy New Year!

Hoppin’ John

6          cups canned and drained or cooked dried black-eyed peas

4          cups chicken broth

2          cups water

1          (6.6 ounce) package long-grain and wild rice with seasonings

4          cups diced canned tomatoes

1          pound smoked spicy sausage, cut into 1″ pieces and lightly seared*

½         cup chopped ham

Combine all ingredients in a deep saucepan. Bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook 20-25 minutes. Soup will thicken as it sets. Freeze any leftover portions for up to six months.

* Searing cooks out part of the fat. To reduce fat content even more, use a smaller amount and add more lean ham.




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