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New Year’s Food Traditions

Black-eyed peas for New Year's

Intrigued by learning yesterday that many families have a custom of having pork with sauerkraut for New Year’s meals, I did some research into some of the traditions I’d never practiced. Pork was new to me, and then I came across the belief that pigs root forward, so it’s about beginning the year looking forward. Luck is associated with cabbage, as well, which seems to be part of the sauerkraut’s being included.

Incidentally, fellow FDL members, including msmolly and JMLagain, tell me it tastes wonderful, too.

Black-eyed peas, as we talked about yesterday at Pull Up A Chair, are to many a symbol of good luck – in my family because they were the food poor folks eat so were supposed to win sympathy from the baby new year. For others, I’ve heard, they are round, so indicate coins. As part of that tradition, there is often a dish of greens, the color of money and meant to attract more of the same.

In a compilation of the traditional foods of the New Year, I ran across several others, and one is of cakes and cookies that were served at holiday open houses held in the early days of the country.

“New Year’s Cookies. Christmas and New Year’s have always called for special recipes, and the Dutch New Year’s koekjes, traditionally baked in molds that produced the design of an eagle or the name of a famous person like Washington, were once among the most ornate. In 1808, Washington Irving’s Salmagundi: Or, The Whim-Whams and Opinions of Launcelot Langstaf, Esq., and Others claimed: “These notable cakes, hight [called] new-year cookies…originally were impressed one side with the burly countenance of the illustrious Rip [Van Winkle].”

3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 tablespoons caraway seeds
Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Set aside. Beat eggs until very light, beat in sugar, a little at a time, and then the cream. Stir in flour combination and caraway seeds. Refrigerate for several hours until dough is firm enough to handle. Roll about 1/4 inch thick on a lightly floured board and cut with a small cooky cutter. Sprinkle tops with sugar and bake on greased cooky sheets in preheated 350 degree F. oven for about 10 minutes. Makes about 8 dozen.”
American Heritage Cookbook, Helen McCully recipes editor [American Heritage Publishing:New York] 1964 (p. 608)

That open houses attracted too many party crashers quickly put an end to them, it seems.

Happy New Year to you all, and if you’re in the neighborhood, I’m serving black-eyed peas (with bacon seasoning), and you’re welcome. Of course, you might have trouble finding the place, like the delivery truck drivers. But if you do, please bring cookies.

(photo: courtesy of beardenb’s photostream on

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Ruth Calvo

Ruth Calvo

I've blogged at The Seminal for about two years, was at cabdrollery for around three. I live in N.TX., worked for Sen.Yarborough of TX after graduation from Wellesley, went on to receive award in playwriting, served on MD Arts Council after award, then managed a few campaigns in MD and served as assistant to a member of the MD House for several years, have worked in legal offices and written for magazines, now am retired but addicted to politics, and join gladly in promoting liberals and liberal policies.