While most of you are probably preparing for a big night on the town, we’re spending a quiet evening at home getting ready for the real party tomorrow night. We host an annual New Year’s Day Good Luck dinner at our home. We invite an interesting mix of family, neighbors, and lots of friends – both new and old. This Yankee cooks all the traditional Southern foods on January 1st – but with my own unique style. Here’s a quick primer on what we serve and why:
Hoppin’ John is a dish that originated in Charleston, South Carolina. One of my favorite authors, Edna Lewis, in her lovely book In Pursuit of Flavor, claims that Hoppin’ John was the name of a disabled man “who peddled beans in the streets of Charleston, and so a local dish made from red beans and rice was named for him.” The dish is meant to bring good luck, with the beans symbolizing coins. Edna also thinks that because bean dishes were made for feast days in Africa, the other origin of the “good luck” is that they were an offering to the gods. Although Edna says that the dish should be made with red beans, every recipe I’ve ever seen uses black-eyed peas. Last year, I make a spicy version with Tofurky Kielbasa, and a milder version with Tofurky Beer Brats for my guests. This year, I’m going to jazz it up a bit – but more on that tomorrow.
Long before everyone was mad for kale, Southerners loved their collards. Although I grew up in Ohio, I’ve taken to collards – especially the way I make them. No gargantuan collard leaves for me. I search the farmers market for the smallest baby collards I can find. Baby collards are sweet and tender and don’t have the large center rib that makes cleaning normal sized collard leaves so tedious. Since I needed about twelve pounds of collards for the crowd I’m expecting, I was forced to use a mix of baby and regular collards since I could only find about 8 pounds of the baby variety. Why do Southerners eat collards on New Year’s Day? They symbolize “folding money” and honestly, couldn’t we all do with a bit more green in our pockets?
That sweet tender cornbread symbolizes wealth because it is the color of gold – pure and simple. I’ve got wonderful recipes for a Southern New Year’s Day Good Luck Dinner in Fool a Carnivore. Whether you’re serving a family or a crowd, you can be eating some delicious soul-satisfying food tomorrow. And if it also brings you luck in the New Year – how wonderful is that? Let me know if you become a fan of this New Year’s Day tradition after trying my recipes!