I pulled into the “Porkin’ Lot” and walked inside where I was greeted with the same old familiar smells: barrels of pickles, huge wheels of cheese, smoky meats and sauerkraut. The year was drawing to an end and I was there for the sauerkraut – a three pound bag of the stuff. Being of German decent, I grew up knowing eating kraut and pork on New Year’s Day was necessary to bring good fortune and prosperity in the upcoming year.
I don’t eat sauerkraut every year anymore, though. Now that I live in Virginia, I often uphold southern tradition and eat black-eyed peas and collard greens for good luck in the New Year. In fact, that is something I like to cook pretty much year-round – a pot of beans and a pot of greens. A little bit of country ham and a handful of dehydrated onions in each pot is all it takes for a perfectly nutritious and delicious meal the whole family will eat.
Every culture, it seems, has a traditional New Year’s dish.
I had the pleasure of living in Japan for a few years where New Year’s (o-shogatsu) was one of the most celebrated holidays. On New Year’s Eve, we dined on soba; the long length of the noodles symbolizing longevity. New Year’s Day brought with it a wide variety of delicious treats – called osechi-ryori – each with its own meaning including fertility, prosperity, health and happiness. These artfully prepared foods are typically cooked in advance of New Year’s Day and are intended to be eaten throughout the first few days of the year. This ensures the whole family can visit and relax and not worry about preparing meals. O-zōni is a particular favorite of mine and my Japanese neighbor makes some for me every year. This mild New Year’s soup is made with dashi (fish stock), mochi (glutinous, sweet rice pounded into a paste and molded into small cakes), and vegetables including carrot, bamboo shoot, and daikon.
(Photo from http://germanfoodguide.com/ and http://www.bento.com/ )