Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year's traditions - foods

In many Spanish-speaking countries, eating a grape at each stroke of the clock leading up to midnight - one for each month - is for good luck. If the grape for the corresponding month is sweet, so is supposed to go that month. If the grape is sour, you shouldn't expect a good month. (No matter how sweet or sour each grape is, however, by the time the clock strikes twelve - unless you chew and swallow very fast - you will have a mouthful of grapes!)

"Media noche" - middle of the night - menus in the Philippines often include twelve round fruits (representing money), one for each month. Added to the spread on their New Year's table, Filipinos believe that an abundance of food ensures a prosperous new year.

French-Canadian "tourtiere" (meat pie), often served up in a flaky crust on New Year's Day, can include pork, veal, and/or beef - in addition to mashed potatoes combined with various herbs and spices. (Sounds absolutely scrumptious to me, having been raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. In fact, the mashed potatoes part reminds me of a "shepherd's pie" I used to make years ago. I simply must find* that recipe!)

The tradition of ingredients signifies wealth (meat) and substance (potatoes), with the seasonings adding the subtleties of flavor - the nuances of life, as it were, for the coming year.

In this country, there is a Southern tradition that dates back to the battle of Vicksburg during the Civil War. The residents were under seige for over 40 days, and no supplies came in or out. To avoid starvation, they ate the black-eyed peas that had previously been used exclusively for cattle feed.** Today, every January 1st these are commonly eaten to bring good luck for the new year.

One way to prepare black-eyed peas is with ham, bacon, chicken bouillon, onions, peppers, and various spices in a slow cooker. The full recipe can be found here, and the finished product is shown below.

However, some believe that certain foods are bad luck. Lobsters, for example - they move backwards ... and chickens, for another - they scratch in reverse. So, with that in mind, you might not want to use that recipe.

Greens - collard, cabbage, lentil, etc. - are thought of by many to bring prosperity, the green color symbolizing money.

Do you have any traditional servings of food in your family? I actually remember none growing up. It wasn't until I came south, many years ago, that I first heard of a 'black-eyed pea' tradition on New Year's Day. (In fact, there's a restaurant here in Houston - the 'Black-Eyed Pea', of course! - that serves [at least, they used to!] black-eyed peas gratis with any order on January 1st.)

* If I find that recipe, I will make sure to include it in a post on down the road. Trust me. It's been tried and tested - many times, actually. I just have to find it! I seem to remember that it included green beans and mushrooms. No 'crust'. Remind me. Please?

** My research for this post led me, of course, to George Washington Carver - to Booker T. Washington - to Tuskegee. Look for a post on January 5th (coming up shortly) on GWC and another April 5th on BTW. There'll be lots more research involved between now and then on both, but you're just going to have to wait to see it all in writing! Meanwhile, if you have any little tidbits of information that you'd like me to look into for possible inclusion in my stories about either of these great men or the Tuskegee Institute, I'd love to have them.


Tammy said...

So do you have grape salad on hand for the first one you mentioned??? lol! :)

We really have no traditions here for the new year.

Goldenrod said...

Nope. Ate it already. Will be getting some more Friday.