Happy New Year From Our Table!

Happy New Year everyone! 2018 is behind us and a brand spanking new year is in our hands to do with as we see fit, or as we can. Most everyone around the globe has new year traditions they follow. Here in the southern USA, one of our most beloved traditions centers around food.

Bolivar Bulletin-Times

Picture credit: Bolivar Bulletin-Times

We’re conditioned to have certain foods on this day; black eyed peas, greens (collard, turnip, mustard, or even cabbage), and cornbread. What do you imagine is waiting on our stove at this very minute? Black eyed peas and turnip greens! The cornbread is in the oven, and will probably be ready before this post is finished. I chose to make cornbread muffins today, rather than my usual “pone” of bread made in a cast iron skillet. Why these foods?

  • Black eyed peas = prosperity, luck
  • Greens = wealth
  • Cornbread = gold

That’s our story, and we’re sticking to it! If any peas are left over, I’ll use them to make pea sausage. That’s done by smashing the peas and adding a bit of sage, black pepper, flour, and an egg. The resulting mixture will be fashioned into patties and fried in my Mawmaw’s cast iron skillet. Oh my, yes! That’s some good eatin’!

Southern Bite

Picture credit: Southern Bite

The tradition of eating black eyed peas is deeply rooted in African American culture. They were first cultivated about 5,000 years ago in western Africa, and probably made their way here via the transatlantic slave trade. It is said that during Sherman’s March to the Sea in early winter 1864, all foodstuffs not eaten or confiscated by the Union soldiers was destroyed. Usually by burning.

The dried peas, in those days, were used as animal food – not fit for human consumption. Well, with nothing left to eat, the folks cooked them seasoned with a bit of pork if they had any. That got them through the winter until they could get some seeds in the ground.

Another story tells how the former slaves celebrated emancipation on 1st January 1863; peas were on the table. After the war, they always had a prominent place at the New Year’s table.

Library of Congress

Picture credit: Library of Congress

When available, pork was on the tables, too. Pigs root forward when foraging for food. This habit makes them symbolic of progress. And because pigs are universally recognized as symbols of wealth and gluttony, pork was added to the meal in the form of jowls (or cheeks) or hocks (a knuckle) of the hog. The jowls could be sliced, to resemble bacon, or thrown whole into the peas for seasoning.

No matter how you celebrate the arrival of a new year, I hope 2019 is the best you ever had! Eat, drink, and be merry! Happy New Year, everyone!

Happy new year card from the world

Picture credit: depositphotos

About Ol' Big Jim

Ol' Big Jim, has been a storekeeper, an embalmer, a hospital orderly, a medical biller, and through it all, a teller of tall tales. Many of his stories, like his first book, New Yesterdays, are set in his hometown of Piedmont, Alabama. Since 2009 he has lived in the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, Amman, Jordan where he spends his time trying to visit each one of the thousands of Ammani coffee shops and scribbling in his ever-present notebook.
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2 Responses to Happy New Year From Our Table!

  1. jaysquires says:

    Couldn’t ask for a better New Year’s Greeting, Jim. I don’t know which was tastier, the history lesson or the picture of that pea sausage. Well, that’s a lie. I’m not going to cook up a batch of that history to go with dinner tomorrow night. Don’t you change, my friend. I love your posts.

    Liked by 1 person

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