Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Years meal

Julius Caesar chose the Julian calendar in 46 BC, as a result, January 1 became the day for Western world celebrations of the New Year. Due to our French heritage there’s only one thing to eat black-eyed peas (a gift from a part of Africa ruled by the French for a long time) Black-eyed peas are de rigueur in New Orleans, a place where France left a big shoe print. Whatever the truth of the story, cabbage leaves represent paper greenbacks and black-eyed peas, long considered a lucky legume because of their association with coins, particularly West Africa. Where slavers stole most of the slaves away from that part of the world and shipped them to the Antebellum South.  As far back as the time of the pharaohs of Egypt, people believed that eating black-eyed peas would bring luck on certain auspicious days.

New Year’s Day carries with it a whole truckload of fascinating history. Depending on whom you ask, the foods represent various types of blessings and success. Eating food for strength, health, and wealth an age old phenomenon. For instance, pigs are popular symbols of good luck and progress in some European countries; anything green is considered a sign of prosperity. Some sources say that Thomas Jefferson (the first real American gourmet/foodie) introduced black-eyed peas to the region around his Monticello estate, at least as a serious crop and ground cover. There is speculation that Black-eyed peas came from Africa to Virginia in the 1600s? Apparently didn’t really become a major crop until later. (after the Revolutionary War) Now supposedly Northern troops thought the beans they saw in the field were field peas, in their minds only good for feeding livestock. The grateful Southerners “found” the beans and saved themselves from starvation. According to folklore throughout the South the first food to be eaten on New Year's Day for luck and prosperity throughout the year ahead is black-eyed peas. One must eat at least 365 black-eyed peas on New Year's Day to ensure best chance of luck every day in the year ahead.  Whatever the truth of that story maybe?

Cabbage leaves represent paper greenbacks and black-eyed peas, long considered a lucky legume because of their association with coins particularly West Africa where slavers stole most of the slaves away from that part of the world then shipped them to the Antebellum South. The history of cabbage is so long and varied was an important food, and the French, Germans and English took cabbage seeds to America. Cabbage is supposed to bring financial prosperity in the coming year. A custom of some was to boil a shiny new dime (making certain it is germ free) then putting it a pot of smothered cabbage. The one who finds the dime is supposed to have more luck in that coming year. This was the lore I was told when but a little girl as to why one cooked the cabbage (for money) and the black-eyed peas (for prosperity). It’s the hope that life will change the desire for money and luck that causes a lot of New Year’s Day food preparations.

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