Reach for the greens and black-eyed peas to get a traditional start to the new year.
When I was a kid, there were two things that had to happen, without fail, on New Year’s Day: We had to eat black-eyed peas and greens, and we had to watch the Rose Parade. Although I grew up in Southern California, my grandma, who was with us on every holiday, was from Texas, and she never sat down to watch the parade before she had two pots simmering on the stove, one with peas and one with greens.
If you’ve ever spent New Year’s in the South, you know the meal you eat on Jan. 1 is the most important one you’ll eat all year. It’s deeply rooted in tradition and superstition, and what foods you serve for dinner that day will have a direct correlation to how much or how little good fortune you’ll experience in the next 12 months.
Ham was always on the menu in our family, but it was hardly the focal point. On this day, it was all about the black-eyed peas and the greens which brought you luck and money, in that order. I remember no other tradition ever being emphasized in my family to the extent of this one. Even today I can’t imagine a New Year’s Day without these two ingredients. Not because I’m afraid of what might happen if we don’t eat them, but because eating them seems to bring me closer to Grandma, and gives me a chance every year to reintroduce my children to this wonderful woman, who died long before they were born.
Food is powerful like that. It can hold so many memories and offer a vehicle for us to reminisce about the good times we had, the people we loved and the meals that brought us all together.
While my grandma served both the peas and greens in the simplest way possible, simmered with onions in a bit of ham broth, she always made it clear that it didn’t matter how you cooked them, only that you ate them. So with Grandma’s blessing, I’ve incorporated these ingredients into my holiday menu in a number of ways over the years. Usually I find a way to serve them hot (Hoppin’ John is a regular favorite), but lately I’m having fun experimenting with them in salad form.
My salad with black-eyed peas and kale, tossed with a sweet and tangy honey mustard dressing, has just a few ingredients and takes five minutes to assemble, which is nice any day of the year, but especially on a holiday. It’s also a refreshing and healthy dish that makes me feel like I’m on the road to getting my family’s diet back on track after a few weeks of holiday madness.
So as I get ready to ring in the new year with my family, and stock up on black-eyed peas and kale, I’d like to take a moment to wish you all health and happiness, luck and prosperity, and another year of delicious meals, shared with those you love. Happy New Year!
Meredith Deeds of Edina is the author of “Everyday to Entertaining” and “The Big Book of Appetizers.” Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @meredithdeeds.