On this New Year’s Day, I am nurturing my inner hillbilly by carrying on the Southern culinary tradition of preparing pork, collard greens, and black eyed peas. This is a “soul food” tradition passed down through generations of Black folks. It came to my family through a woman named Mary Ellen who worked for my great-grandmother, my grandmother, and my mother, and who helped my mother raise me for a brief time when I was very young while also helping my mom care for my great-grandmother in her later years. My father’s side of the family also enjoyed this particular fare, and my father would have hated me calling us hillbillies (but we were!).
The reasoning behind this old soul food tradition on New Year’s Day is this: pork represents prosperity, greens (usually collards) represents dollars, and black eyed peas represent pennies. I usually make a ham but this year I decided to make pork spare ribs. I also usually make my collards from scratch, but it has been hard to find fresh ones that are in good condition lately, and this brand of canned collards is as good as any I have ever made. The tradition holds that if you eat this meal on New Year’s Day you will be prosperous and lucky all year long.
Optional: The Cholula hot sauce is the closest in flavor to my Grandaddy Hall’s homemade pepper sauce. One does not eat their collards properly without pepper sauce (in my opinion).
I have never missed a year cooking this combination of foods on New Year’s Day, but it has never brought me luck or prosperity. Perhaps this will be my year. 😉 But another way to look at it is that I am simply lucky to have this tradition and to be fortunate enough to have good food on a cold wintry day.
Life is good and I am grateful.