By Elena Rosemond-Hoerr
Like many Southerners, I celebrate New Year’s Day with a traditional meal of pork, collards, and black-eyed peas. And like many in the region, I also come from a long line of superstitious people. My very superstitious father impressed upon me from an early age the notion that eating this meal was the key to a year full of wealth, success, and good fortune.
Black-eyed peas, cornbread, and greens symbolize prosperity because they resemble coins, gold, or dollar bills. Pork is thought to represent progress—because pigs root forward—and so eating pork will help you move forward through the year, hopefully with all the prosperity you gained from the rest of your meal.
Over the years, my New Year’s Day lucky supper has evolved from separate dishes to a one-skillet wonder. For the pork component, I always start with bacon. I love the flavor it brings, and the fat creates the perfect cooking base for the black-eyed peas and collards.
Lots of apple cider vinegar and red pepper flakes offer acidity and heat to balance the bacon, which in turn creates the rich and soul-healing potlikker that everyone needs to start a fresh year.
My dad passed away this past summer, and I’m having a hard time looking forward into a new year without him. I wouldn’t be who I am as a cook, a writer, or a person without his influence, and the thought of charting a course ahead without his guidance is daunting. One of the things I loved most about him was his joy in the kitchen.
He never followed a recipe; he was always adjusting and tweaking, changing his favorite dishes over and over again, convinced that he could get them just a step closer to perfection. Without him here this holiday season, I’ll be making all the fish dip, I’ll be frying the turkey, and, most importantly, I’ll be solely in charge of our skillet of fortune and luck come January 1.
I’m thankful that he spent a lifetime teaching me to cook, to host, and to share these traditions with our family. And as scary as it is to look forward, I know that he’ll be there with me always as the voice telling me that I need to add more red pepper or that it could really use a little more salt.
Best of all, I’ll pass on these traditions to my son, who loves to be in the kitchen cooking, and I’ll tell him that these recipes came from his pappie, a man who believed that this very special, very simple meal could bring us everything we wish for.
Find more stories and recipes from Elena at biscuitsandsuch.com.
A classic mash-up of pork, greens, and black-eyed peas make this the perfect dish to serve on New Year’s Day.