"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Monday, December 31, 2012

Traditions from my house to yours

I think everyone has at least one little tradition to ring in the New Year. There is a certain food to be eaten or a song to be sung or a dance to be danced. Even if you live in self-imposed exile, I'll bet you do at least one thing to differentiate between this year and last.

We spend New Year's Eve with friends, typically staying out too late with just a touch too much food and drink. Then on New Year's Day, we turn the TV on at seven so we can watch the Rose Parade (on KTLA because Bob Eubanks and Stephanie Edwards are the best).

Then I fall back to sleep until ten or eleven or so.

Sometimes I make a big breakfast, but no one demands it, so I don't have to. The big thing is New Year's Day Night dinner. We absolutely must have the same meal every year. It's tradition.

Of course, being married to Dale, we must have black eyed peas. They are well-known as a New Year's good luck food. Typically, they are cooked with some kind of pork, onions, and hot sauce, and served with collard greens. Legend is that the peas symbolize prosperity because they swell when they are cooked. The greens stand for money, and pork is used because pigs root forward, symbolizing progress.

Or maybe it's just a Southern thing.

I let Dale fix the black eyed peas. He doesn't really have a recipe. Everything is just "to taste." I'm responsible for my half of the heritage equation.

My family always had cabbage and ham on New Year's. According to my grandmother, it was to ensure prosperity for the new year. Since my family was as poor as a flock of church mice, I have no idea why they thought this worked. I did read that cabbage and ham is a traditional New Year's dish because green cabbage leaves resemble paper money.

The bad news, perhaps, is that I hated cabbage and ham and wasn't forced to eat it. Nor was I interested in learning to make it. This meant, when I decided to honor this tradition, I had no idea how to prepare the dish.

I have memories of a huge pan full of cabbage, ham, and possibly some cheese, that cooked all day. I knew that, not only would cabbage not survive such torture, the house would reek for months. Instead, I found a recipe in the New Dieter's Cookbook for cabbage and ham hash. Here's the picture:

Basically, you saute chopped onions and cabbage in a little margarine, then add grated carrots, diced ham and cooked potatoes, black pepper and a little Worcestershire sauce. Of course, mine doesn't quite look like the picture because I add more cabbage, but it's good. And, voila - Tradition, Take Two.
What are your traditions for New Year's? What is it you absolutely MUST do if the new year is to go forward?

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