Hey, y’all! As we kick off shanaswain.com, I’d like to first wish you all a Merry New Year (shout out to “Trading Places”!)!! As we close the chapter that is 2017, we prepare our bodies and minds for the future. It’s my hope we are all entering 2018 in our best health.
Thank you so much for allowing me to share my world of writing, motherhood, and cooking up tasty dishes! With it being NYE, y’all know I’ve been in the lab (my kitchen) whipping up New Year’s day vittles. The Boston butt got a tan in the pan and now it’s nestled firmly in the oven on low and slow. The field peas soaked and later immersed with onion in the crock pot are bathing with neckbones and ham hocks from the night before. Can’t forget those collards, the leafy bunch washed and chopped, with a small simmer on the stovetop.
New Year’s traditions vary around the country and the world, but one aspect is common to almost all of them: food. The food we eat goes together with the beliefs of luck and fortune we hope to come to us in the new year. Here in the South, many culinary traditions accompany specific rites we carry out during this time.
Field peas and rice are prepared as Hoppin’ John, a dish which dates back to the very early history of the Lowcountry. In the coastal regions of South Carolina and Georgia and among the Sea Islands, the field pea or a red pea- are almost exclusively used, combined with a smoked meat, onions, and spices. Other areas of the South will use a blackeyed pea. Notions of good luck and prosperity accompany the peas, which resemble coins. To add to the financial promise our tasty meal will bring, it is common to prepare collard greens, since greens resemble money. We don’t prepare any fowl, rather cook pork dishes; fowl flies away, and pigs move forward in travel. To further fortify our lucky meal, we add a slab of cornbread which reminds us of gold (and compliments peas and greens beautifully).
In a region steeped in rich history of two worlds combining, these meals are also variants of those in Western African countries. Rice was a staple crop in the Lowcountry and field peas were resistant to most bad weather, making them abundant in the region. African culinary heritage incorporated, thus creating an American tradition and reinforcing its historical significance.
Many superstitions surround this first day of the year, but all are not largely observed. One thing remains true of our corner of the world: most of us raised with this culinary tradition will partake in the meal of Hoppin’ John, collards, and pork. Mine will be ready to consume at midnight and I will welcome the new year and all the joy it is sure to bring. I hope you do the same! Happy New Year to all!