A healthy dose of tradition comes with the ringing in of the New Year.
New Year’s Day is steeped with traditions to bring prosperity and good luck in the year ahead. In the southern United States, it is believed that if you eat poor on the first day of the New Year, you will eat rich each day moving forward.
Round foods like black-eyed peas and lentils symbolize coins, leafy greens like collard greens and kale symbolize paper money, and golden dishes like corn bread symbolize gold. Black-eyed peas are the most commonly consumed “coin” for New Year’s Day, often served over rice with a side of greens and cornbread. However, folklore says that one must consume 365 black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day to ensure financial prosperity every day of the New Year.
This budget-friendly New Year’s Day meal is also good for your health. Black-eyed peas are high in fiber, potassium and iron while being low in fat, calories and sodium, and leafy greens are rich in fiber and vitamins. If you cook them in a healthy way, you’ll get a huge dose of vegetables while ensuring good luck in the New Year.
Pork is also part of a traditional New Year’s Day meal in the south because it is thought to represent prosperity. Pigs symbolize progress because they root forward with their snouts rather than backwards. Chickens are considered unlucky because they scratch backwards – similar to the backward movement of lobsters – representing setbacks. So they should be clearly avoided on Jan. 1.
Looking for luck in the New Year? Try this Hoppin’ John recipe from Chef John Rivers of The Coop. Since it includes pork, serve it with a side of greens and cornbread for good fortune in 2018.
Yield: 1.5 gallons
1 pound cooked black-eyed peas, drained and washed
1 large smoked ham shank or 2-3 smaller hocks
1 quart chicken broth
1 cup bacon, diced
4 T salted butter
1 ½ cups Vidalia onion, small diced
1 cup diced celery
1 T minced garlic
2 T white vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 t salt
1 t black pepper
¼ t cayenne pepper
1 cup diced tomato
4 cups cooked white rice (with 4 T butter and 1 t salt)
In a large saucepot, boil ham shanks or hocks in water to loosen meat, typically 45 minutes to an hour. Allow it to cool, cut off the meat, and rough chop it, reserving the bones. In a large pot, cook the bacon until just shy of crispy. Add chopped ham, onion, celery, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Cook five minutes or until onion and celery is soft. Add garlic and cook another two to three minutes. Add peas, chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer, add remaining ham bones, tomato and butter. Cover and allow the dish to simmer for 30 minutes. Add additional chicken broth if mixture becomes dry. Remove bones, fold in cooked rice, and serve.