THINKING THURSDAY – (enjoy learning something new!)
It’s not too soon to begin planning for the New Year – our party outfits, resolutions, plans, hopes, wishes, and luck. That’s right: luck. Throughout the centuries and many disparate cultures, people have believed that certain foods prepared especially for the new calendar year would bring luck to those who prepare, serve, and consume it.
There are various theories about the history of the little black-eyed pea that go all the way back to the pharaohs in ancient Egypt. They were eaten by the pharaohs, to bring them humility.
In the American south, the most well known of these foods is black-eyed peas, commonly accompanied with hog jowls, ham, or the leftover ham bone from the Christmas dinner ham. Pork is considered lucky as the hog symbolizes prosperity. While some traditions require that the black-eyed peas be eaten before noon of New Year’s Days, others specify that exactly 365 peas be consumed, one for each day of the upcoming year. Black-eyed peas are said to be symbolic of coin money and were once tucked into African-American men’s billfolds to attract paper money and increased wealth.
Black-eyed peas are eaten prepared with pork in a traditional pot of beans or as an ingredient in soups and stews that are served over rice like a gumbo or popular Hoppin John.
Hoppin’ John is the Southern United States’ version of the rice and beans dish traditional throughout West Africa. It consists of black-eyed peas and rice, with chopped onion and sliced bacon, seasoned with a bit of salt. Some people substitute ham hock for the conventional bacon; a few use green peppers or vinegar and spices.
An easy version is: Start with a can of drained black-eyed peas and add some chopped green onion, celery, sweet red pepper and parsley or cilantro. Dress it with a splash of olive oil and vinegar, then season with salt and pepper. Serve it with your favorite chips, as a salad on top of sliced tomatoes, or as a side dish inside hollowed-out tomato halves.
Cabbage is another healthy “good luck” vegetable with the leaves said to symbolize paper currency. Rice is another, depending upon one’s area and background. For those of you with a sweet tooth, donuts are also said to bring luck. Epicurious.com offers a list of six lucky foods that are eaten in different cultures – grapes, greens, fish, pork, legumes (such as our black-eyed peas) and cakes – as well as their usual delicious recipes that feature these foods. http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/holidays/newyearsday/luckyfoods
Just as there are foods said to increase one’s luck, there are others to avoid on New Year’s Day. Lobster and chicken are to be avoided, supposedly due to the creatures’ habits of propelling themselves or scratching backwards. Some traditions hold that birds in general are to be avoided as they – and the luck that they represent – could simply fly away.
Whatever your choice, have a safe and Happy New Year.
Laugh, learn and liven up your taste buds!