Post #686 Beginning the New Year

January 1, 2020 at 12:34 PM | Posted in Easy, Holiday | 2 Comments

Happy New Year to everyone!  How cool the blog post falls on the new year’s start.  So much I want to see for this year.  I guess the most important is this is an election year and it’s an opportunity to flex our political muscles and see to it that the person we want to hold elected office(s) gets in and does the work that needs to be done.  So everyone, get out and vote!!

New Year’s Day was always a big deal when I was growing up.  Mom was Irish and Dad was German and Scots.  So any traditions for the new year was a blend of the cultures.  Predominantly, the German tradition was what we followed, which meant the first main meal of the new year included pork and sauerkraut.  Mom always added boiled potatoes because she was Irish and potatoes were included in practically every meal of any kind.  She would always cook a good sized pork roast so the fat cap was rendered and crispy while the meat was tender and juicy.  She never drained the sauerkraut but added sliced apples while it was cooking so it took on a sour and sweet flavor, but all the flavor of the meat juices.  We kids only ate a tiny bite of the sauerkraut, just so we’d get the good luck, but went to town on the potatoes and pork.  Sometimes she would add ice cold apple sauce which was like dessert during the meal.  But once I was on my own, I switched from a pork roast to pork chops.  For one, I like pork chops a LOT, and while I like pork roast, pork chops are the bomb.  So I now do the new year’s meal with pork chops that I’ve seasoned myself.  When the chops are done, I move them to a plate, and fry the sauerkraut in the same pan as the pork chops so they pick up the flavor of the juices and fond and seasonings.  I’ve left out the apples since I left home, but this year, I’m adding them back.

When we moved to Arizona, I found that many of my friends had different traditions for the new year.  Since they were Hispanic, their traditions were mostly from that culture.  As I explained the Germanic/Gaelic flavor of our family’s traditions, they in turn explained theirs.  They were mostly the same as their Christmas traditions, and since I love tamales, it was like extending Christmas far beyond the day.  But there was one that I used to like and giggle at since it was a challenge.  Just before midnight, each person is handed a small bowl or saucer with twelve grapes or raisins in it.  When the clock chimed midnight on New Year’s Eve, each person ate one grape or raisin at each chime of the clock.  Every sweet grape was good luck for that month, and every sour grape was bad luck.

When I moved to Virginia and started dating the girl who became my wife, she introduced me to the custom of Black Eyed Peas.  I was already familiar with them and like them okay.  But I didn’t know they were considered good luck on new year’s day.  In the South, black eyed peas are considered a must to ensure good luck for the upcoming year.  If you don’t eat them, you may as well stay in bed for the year.  We both like them, so eating them was a simple addition to the pork and sauerkraut we already had.

Of course, another tradition from the South that goes hand in hand with the black eyed peas is crispy corn bread.  The way to make corn bread crispy is to cook it in a cast iron skillet.  The trick is to put the skillet in the oven and let it heat up while the oven is heating.  Once the oven has reached its temperature, make the corn bread batter, open the oven, melt a good amount of butter in the skillet, and pour the batter in while the butter is still sizzling hot.  Close the oven and bake according the recipe.  When it’s done, all the parts that touched the skillet will be a crispy crust that is to die for.

Another legume that is considered lucky at New Year is the lentil.  I love lentils.  My sister introduced me to them back in college.  They’re small, round, flat with a bulgy middle, and look like tiny coins.  In Italy, and many Hispanic cultures, lentils are considered good luck and prosperity for the new year.  It doesn’t really matter how they’re made as long as they’re eaten.  I’ve mostly eaten them in soups, but they can be made into a salad and any number of casseroles.

Fruits of various types are also looked on as lucky.  The key is they must be round.  That symbolizes the turning of the year and success as the old year passes and the new year is born.  When we were kids, our Christmas stocking always had tucked among the candy and small gifts, at least an orange or a tangerine.  We never knew what they were for, but I found out a few years ago and it made sense.  Plus the bright color seems almost like a jewel.

Pomegranates are also thought to be lucky at the new year.  Apart from being round, the abundance of seeds symbolized fertility in all endeavors.  Some cultures will slam the ripe pomegranate on the doorway making the rind crack and the seeds scatter to bring fertility to all inhabitants in the house and all their deeds.

One tradition I learned about during my travels was the Filipino Twelve Fruits.  From what I can remember, the actual fruits didn’t matter as long as there were twelve, one for each month.  The fruits were eaten to bring good luck for each month of the year.  Some people fruit juice will also work, and try to find the most pleasing tasting blend of twelve fruits they can.

Finally, there’s the tradition of the Long Noodle from Asia.  It represents longevity and prosperity.  The noodles must be unbroken and cooked in a savory broth.  The person who could eat one noodle without breaking it or biting it would have exceptional good luck for the year.

So, what New Year food traditions do you have in your family?  Let us know.  Feel free to share this post far and wide.

As always,

 

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