Friday, December 31, 2010

Root Forward Into the New Year

Honestly, I'm not a very superstitious person, but I wouldn't think of celebrating the New Year without eating pork, of some kind.  

My family has always celebrated the new year with a pork roast.  My father simply wouldn't have it any other way.
Eastern Europeans believe that you must celebrate the new year by consuming the flesh of an animal that roots forward while foraging for food. By doing so, you can be assured of heading forward into the new year, thus optimizing your chances of success and good fortune.
One year, while trekking home down the Ohio turnpike on New Year's Day, we encountered a blizzard. It was getting late and there was no chance we were going to find a decent place to eat. Dad was tired, hungry and irritable, when we pulled into a highway rest-stop. It was past the dinner hour, the place was deserted and at first it appeared as though the kitchen was closed. All hope for something hot to eat seemed lost, when Mom spied the bratwurst. I'll never forget the change in Dad's demeanor. Not only was he going to get something to eat, he was going to eat pork! Alleluia! Good things were going to happen! After dinner, we piled back into the car and inched our way forward down the freeway toward home.
                             From:  Women On Tractors, Rooting Forward 2010

I remember my parents actually debating whether eating a bratwurst would satisfy the superstition.  I guess the mere fact that we were able to move forward down the highway, without having to turn back, answered that question!

Another explanation I've heard for eating pork on New Year's Day, comes from the Middle Ages, when the men of a village gathered for a boar hunt on the last day of the year.  If they returned with fresh kill, it meant that game in the local woodland was plentiful.  If they failed, then the woods were most likely hunted-out, which meant there would be starvation in the coming year.

Pork isn't the only food associated with the New Year.  No self-respecting southerner would think of ushering in a new year without eating black-eyed peas, which are believed to symbolize prosperity.  I've heard several different explanations for this tradition, but the most common seems to have originated after the Civil War, when food was scarce.  If a family had black-eyed peas in the pantry, it meant that they had luck on their side, and would be prosperous in the coming year.

Feeling I could use a little extra luck and prosperity as I rang in the new year, I whipped up a bowl of Texas Caviar, using canned black eyed peas and yellow hominy.  It was a big hit, especially with my two-year-old grandson, Richard, who loves tomatoes.

If you're in mind to try a new pork recipe, I've got a few I think you'll enjoy.  Don't be fooled by the title of the second  one though, City Chicken is pork with a twist.

1 comment:

  1. Tom is headed to the store to get the makings for his crockpot New Years pork meal. He enjoys being in charge of this every year. I can't imagine New Years without Pork.