A Southern New Year’s Meal…

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Southerners do love the Lord, but we also have a strong superstitious streak. The Southern New Year’s Meal is fairly steeped in traditional superstition, so whether you like it or not- you will be expected to take just a bite or two of Greens, Blackeyed Peas, Roast Pork, Sweet Potatoes and Cornbread! If you don’t? Well, your happy and prosperous New Year has been put in serious jeopardy. Southern mommas are so serious about this- they are willing to doll up their Blackeyed Peas and call it Southern Caviar, of all things. My grandmother wasn’t so accommodating…she said, ‘Learn to like ’em’, which really meant-don’t mess with tradition. Truth be told, up and down most Southern neighborhoods, on New Year’s Day you could smell what everybody was cooking, Southern Soul. We eat Pork- any kind really, Ham, Pork Chops, Hamhocks, Roast Fresh Pork, Salt Pork or Barbeque on New Year’s Day- why?

  • Because Pigs root Forward for food-
  • Cows Stand Still- and chew the cud over and over again- so don’t eat Beef, unless that’s how you want the new year to go..
  • Chickens, well they’re flighty and flap around the coop-but the main thing is they Scratch Backwards for food…
  • Moving Forward, I hate to put it this way-to move Forward like Hogs do- is the way to go in the New Year.

We won’t mention the high fat content of pork while you’re making your New Year’s Resolutions- though fat was considered a good sign, especially to farm and field hands, who preferred fat years as opposed to lean. In fact a Southern New Year’s Meal is actually a pore man’s meal. After the Wah B’tween the States, we were all pore. The New Year’s Meal was scraped together from what the Union Army left behind after Sherman tore through here, leaving basically feed for livestock; corn, dried out peas, potatoes and turnips left undug. When those Carpetbaggers, Scalawags and Yankees came down here to straighten us out – they had to eat pore man’s food too! I guess they learned to like it. Remember, the New Year’s Meal is the Food of the Southern Soul. Now, don’t go thinking we’re unhappy about it- we like itimage

We even spice things up a bit, we always have Hot Pepper Sauce for the Blackeyed Peas and Greens, the Mashed Sweet Potatoes are topped with Pecans, Cinnamon and Sugar swimming in Butter or maybe the Sweet Potatoes will be made into Sticky Candied Yams. This year, I’ve made up a Sweet, Spicy and Hot Pickle Relish for my Turnip Greens or to drizzle over buttered Cornbread. And, I’m having a Turnip Green Casserole made famous by our colorful and infamous Governor Big Jim Folsom. He made a campaign stop out in the middle of nowhere late one night and was served a mess of drained Turnip Greens topped with Fried Onion Rings, then kept warm in the oven. When Big Jim asked what the name of the dish was- they didn’t know…so he dubbed it ‘Ain’t Mad at Nobody Turnip Greens’. The Pot Likker drained from the Greens was saved for Medicinal Purposes, is said to be restorative to the sick. (You might need it!) The only change I’m going to make is to cook some diced turnips in with my Turnip Greens. I also plan to liven up my Roast Pork Backbone with cracked black pepper, a generous amount of salt; then surrounded with whole onions and garlic, while it roasts. Don’t you just love the idea of having a spicy Southern Pork Backbone for New Year’s? My Grandmother did. The superstitious prosperity traditions surrounding the New Year Meal are specific-

  • Dark Leafy Greens represent green folding money,
  • Ground Yellow Cornbread represents gold bullion,
  • Sweet Potatoes represent copper pennies.
  • It is traditional to eat 365 Blackeyed Peas for a prosperous New Year, however many you eat- that’s how many lucky days you’ll have. Blackeyed peas are a type of field pea when left on the vine after harvest will dry, then are hulled and stored up to re-hydrate and eat during winter or kept for starter seed in the Spring.You never know when you might need some ‘seed’ money..
  • Pork is Preserved or Saved, too. The New Year’s Pork and Blackeyed Peas represent the wisdom of Saving- you didn’t think Piggy Banks were a figment of the imagination did you?

So, there you have it, the Southern New Year’s Meal. If you have room for dessert, you’ve missed the whole point- this meal is so well rounded, so complete you really don’t need another rich thing. After all you indulged in during Thanksgiving and Christmas, uh ah-well let’s just say it wouldn’t hurt you pass up dessert. There’s always that fruitcake no one ate or a slice of sweet potato or pecan pie so good it will lull you over to the couch for a nap. Now, I know you’re pining away for that recipe for the Sweet, Hot and Spicy Relish- it’s easy as pie:

Camellia’s Spicy Winter Relish 

  • One 12 oz jar of Sweet Pickle Relish- drained.
  • One small can of sliced Mexican Jalapeno Peppers with liquid
  • 2- 2½ cups of pure cane sugar

Put all of the ingredients in a stainless steel pan, bring to a low boil, reduce the heat and cook until liquid is almost all absorbed- it will be sticky and glistening, candied might be a better word. Makes 2 cups of the best stuff you ever ate any time of the year!image

And for heaven’s sake, get those Christmas decorations down, it’s bad luck! I would love to hear what you’re eating New Year’s Day and whether you’re superstitious about it or not. Whatever you’re having, I hope you are blessed with a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

Love y’all, Camellia

*Photographs are all mine, obviously. *It is worth noting that according to nutritionists, dark leafy greens, sweet potatoes and dried legumes all have very high nutritional qualities- no excuses! Eat that good Southern Soul Food!

26 thoughts on “A Southern New Year’s Meal…

  1. I never knew why we eat pork. That was interesting. Today I think we like that food because we are so tired of all the fancy food we eat during the holidays and we need to get back to basics. I remember years ago I would go off for a week long seminar or convention and eat convention food or in restaurants all week. I was so looking forward getting a home cooked meal when I got home. Carole had been at home with two boys driving her crazy without relief and the last thing she want to do was to cook another meal. So I got to eat more restaurant food until she regained her composure.

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  2. We are not that different. Gotta have pork and since we are of German heritage, it’s accompanied by sauerkraut (not just any…has to be Silver Floss) and mashed potatoes. Anything thing else is ok but woe to those who to go Kentucky Fried today!

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  3. Oh did I mess up today and it is all your fault because you didn’t warn me in your blog. While I have lived within 30 miles of the place I was born (Sycamore, Al) for most of my life I still struggle with southern traditions. I was talking with my sister earlier today. She was calling to find out how I was feeling after my “not a hangover” illness yesterday. I told her I was doing great and was catching up on laundry. You could hear the heartattack over the phone. “No you aren’t, you can’t be”. She informed me that by doing laundry I would be washing away someone important to me next year. I had never heard that one before. So next year when you do your New Years blog please warn people not to do laundry. Now I will just have to wait to see who gets washed out of my life this year. I must to have done laundry last New Years because I lost a lot of dear friends and relatives in 2016.

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    1. Aw Bob, I actually didn’t do the rest of the New Year’s Superstitions and there are a lot of them! I will try not to forget this one! If I can hold out to keep blogging! 🙂 Sorry you’ve been sick- there seems to be a bug going around…Let me just say this- I do feel melancholy this time of year, for the same reasons- those that were lost, things I wish I had said or done- but hey! that’s like those chickens scratching for food isn’t it? As hard as it is to move forward, we must…and I admire the many ways you have my friend!

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  4. Hey Camellia! So glad to make your acquaintance. I am a Southern boy who was born and raised in Baton Rouge. Of course now I live in Mississippi. I loved this New Year’s meal, Southern style. This is a wonderful post. I look forward to more in the future. Blessings to you and your family.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m finally catching up with everyone and I’m so glad I didn’t miss this post altogether! I love the explanations for the foods in the New Year’s meal! And I’m going to make that Spicy Winter Relish! It looks amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Elizabeth! so fun to write that post! The Spicy Winter Relish is a ‘made up’ recipe that happened to turn out well…let me know how you like it- the ‘Ain’t Mad at Nobody’ Casserole was not the hit I thought it would be- 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I often think it’s a blessing that Mr. Comfortable still doesn’t fully have his sense of taste back. That way when I try something that isn’t wonderful I’m the only one who knows it was a disaster!

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