In the Appalachia’s there are lots of superstitions and traditions that many people still hold on to today. Who knows if people still believe in them, but it does keep us connected to our past and to one another.
Mary used to always have pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day. Before I would even walk through their back door I could smell the sauerkraut. I love it to this day. She said that when they first got married they moved to Ohio for work and rented a couple of rooms above a nice old woman. The first New Year’s Day that they were there, she knocked on their door and gave them a pot of sauerkraut and pork roast, and a slice of cornbread. She told them that it would bring them wealth and good luck in the new year. Mary said they made it through that year and eventually back home to Virginia, so it worked and she made it ever since. I took that to heart and have made sure each year that I have something for wealth, health, and good luck in the new year. Lots of years I just made sure I had a bite of kraut at work or picked some up on my way home. When I started working for The Old Mill they offered Black Eyed Peas on New Year’s and I asked why. “For money of course!” was what I was told “And you need to eat some greens, kraut, and cornbread too!”. I already knew that the sauerkraut was for luck and the pork for moving forward and prospering. So from then on I added money to the list of things to look forward to in the new year. I recently read that for money in the new year it’s “peas for pennies, greens for dollars, and cornbread for gold”. I have always gotten by, even with some years being leaner than others, but it has always worked!
Mary also had me walk through her front door on New Year’s Day and she would sweep out the house from back to front and down the front steps. She always told me how handsome I was, which was the only time I’d ever known her to not be completely honest, and it was important to have a handsome man cross the threshold on that first day. I’ve read that it should be a dark-haired man for good luck, but not a blonde or red-headed man or woman if they are the first to cross that day. They would bring bad luck. And, sweeping out the house was to get all the bad out and cast away.
In my very first blog post I told you about Maryanne. She was the neighbor who made lye soap, still had an outhouse, and told fortunes for money. The new year was a very busy time for her too. Everyone wanted to know what the new year was going to bring them.
Early this year I was working on a recipe for a contest, which I didn’t get into the qualifying rounds of, but I thought this could be perfect for my New Year’s Day dinner to bring me lots of luck, good health, and lots of wealth. I’ve modified it a bit and I think I’ve gotten everything in it that I need.
Pennies, Dollar’s, & Gold Pot Pie
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 45-50 minutes
Pot Pie Filling:
2 strips bacon
3/4 – 1 pound pork loin cut into 1/2 inch cube pieces
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced gold potatoes
1 1/2 cups frozen corn or 1 15oz can drained
1 1/2 cups frozen black eyed peas
1 1/2 cups frozen chopped collard greens
2 cups water
1 teaspoon dried or 2 teaspoons fresh parsley
1 teaspoon dried or fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried or 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried chives or 1/2 teaspoon fresh chives
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup Yellow Self-Rising Cornmeal
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons mayonaise
5 tablespoons browned butter; reserve 3 for cornbread batter and 2 tablespoons to drizzle on top
Here is why we eat what we do on New Year’s and why we don’t eat other things:
Pork – we eat because the pig is always rooting forward, finding what he needs. It is important to move forward in the new year.
Chicken – we don’t eat because they are always scratching backwards, kicking their good luck into their past.
Black-eyed Peas – we eat, but there are several stories as to why. One is that it was the only thing left on many southern plantations during the civil war after troops had raided and taken all their livestock and other foods, believing that the black-eyed peas were just feed for livestock and no good. Slaves adopted this early on and it was thought that the more black-eyed peas you ate, the more luck you would have. Another is that they represent money, which loosely ties back where the name “bean counter” comes from, talking about someone who counts money or does the accounting, but if you were a slave, you counted the beans too.
Catfish or other bottom-feeding fish – we don’t eat because they do feed off the bottom of the lake and no one wants to be a bottom feeder.
Cornbread – we eat because it is gold! Well, if you use yellow cornmeal, but any corn or form will do. Like the black-eyed peas and greens, it’s about wealth in the new year.
Beef in any form – we don’t eat because cows eat standing still and it’s all about moving forward in the new year.