Friday, December 28, 2012

Kicking off 2013 with some luck

As 2012 comes to a close I start to plan for the last 'holiday season' meal, one that many people may not celebrate quite the same but it is definitely tradition in my family...New Years Day.  As as kid I grew to expect black eyed peas (gasp, not paleo!) every New Years Day and as an adult, regardless of my typical diet I expect them all the same.  I always knew it was for luck in the new year but didn't really know much else, I just kind of accepted that.  Because I'm a huge nerd when it comes to stuff like this I started digging to understand why they are considered good luck, one of my favorite lists of good/bad luck foods for the new year was here on Epicurious.  It just lists out legumes (again, paleo eaters gasp!) in general as luck around the world for a few reasons but here's the reason why we consider it so in the US:
"In the Southern United States, it's traditional to eat black-eyed peas or cowpeas in a dish called hoppin' john. There are even those who believe in eating one pea for every day in the new year. This all traces back to the legend that during the Civil War, the town of Vicksburg, Mississippi, ran out of food while under attack. The residents fortunately discovered black-eyed peas and the legume was thereafter considered lucky."
Some of the other descriptions I found on the internet were a little less detailed, things like, "they look like coins" and so they are lucky...I'm not so sure I agree, black-eyed peas don't look like any coins in my pocket but oh well...they are clearly an agreed upon 'lucky' item.  So this year I'll make them the way I was taught, with a big old smoked ham hock.

New Years Day Black-Eyed Peas

24 oz Fresh Black-Eyed Peas
1 very large or two medium sized smoked ham hocks, or the bone-end of the Christmas Ham with some meat still attached
Salt & Pepper
1 clove minced garlic
2 onions, diced
1 can chopped, fire-roasted tomatoes
Springs of cilantro (optional but great for garnish)

Place black-eyed peas and ham in 8 quart pot. Add enough water to fill pot 3/4 full. Stir in diced onions, and season with salt, pepper, and garlic, add tomato. Bring all ingredients to boil. Cover the pot, and simmer on low heat for 1 to 1 1/2hours, or until the peas are tender. Garnish with cilantro.

We always start with fresh peas in our house, I think because it's something you can really always find in the south at this time of year but really they are the best way to start.   In addition to black eyed peas we always have some kind of greens, the basic idea being that greens symbolize money and wealth into the new year.   We'll be having some greens with our peas and the last (but probably my favorite part) key piece of our meal will be to have some pork.  Not only because I love pork in all of its incarnations but because pigs root forward as they move, symbolizing moving forward in the new year.  By the same token, Epicurious lists out some 'bad luck' protiens, lobster and chicken because these two move backwards...and who wants to go backwards in the next year?  We'll be indulging in a braised pork belly recipe based on Emeril's Asian Style Pork Belly.

What will you enjoy on New Years Day?

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