There are not that many things I am superstitious about. The superstitions I do hold, however, maintain a powerful grip on me, and although my outward observance of them may be shrouded in me saying “what could it hurt to [insert fulfillment of superstition here]”? but my inner self is screaming “please please let this one be more than a superstition!”.
The traditional southern New Year’s Day meal, for example. Today I will travel to my hometown to share the traditional New Year’s foods. When I haven’t been able to go to Lake Butler, I’ve always visited a local restaurant for the necessary “good luck foods.”
A Traditional Southern Good Luck Meal
Although I’ve read that the tradition is pork, black eyed peas, and greens, the pork part has always been sort of an optional part of the good luck triad for me.
But let’s give it its due.
Here’s Southern Living’s take on the role of pork:
The more pork and ham in your meal, the more luck you will have. Because of the amount of fat in pork, it is a symbol of wealth and prosperity. Some people also say that because a pig uses its snout to dig in the ground while moving forward, eating pork on New Year’s signifies progress and moving forward. So don’t just use ham hock and fatback to flavor your veggies; eat a baked ham or pork chops as a main dish.
My parents have always insisted on seasoning the New Year’s greens with pork (hog jowl to be specific) but having pork as the meat has never felt that critical to me.
Moving forward, though, sounds like an intention I can definitely embrace, so my snout is now engaged with this idea!
I did not appreciate greens (turnips, collards, etc.) as a kid. I really started to like them during my teenage eating disorder phase, when anything with minimal calories was attractive because it was something I could put in my mouth (this was also my tab and carrots phase …).
Once I started liking greens, I really liked greens. That affinity has lasted long beyond the point at which I was looking for zero calorie foods.
I think one component of my love for greens is understanding how much work they involve. It takes a LOT of greens to turn into a yummy bowl of greens deliciousness. They have to be picked, washed, prepped. It’s a process. I’ve seen my mom do it countless times — I’ve heard her excitement when she mentioned how a relative unexpectedly left a bag of greens at the front door. Greens are affection in the south, and a delicious affection it is (especially if you add hot sauce — the kind where peppers have soaked in vinegar). YUM.
Anyway, what greens are supposed to represent is prosperity (green, like money…). The truest prosperity representative is apparently cabbage, but all the southerners I know do collards. This piece describes the cabbage/collards evolution in detail.
I’ve been alive 52 years and can’t say I’ve ever had a positive financial development and said this must be because I ate greens on January 1 but I’m all for giving fate any assist it needs in bringing more monetary green into my life!
Black-eyed peas are a must for New Year’s Day as well. As this article explains, black-eyed peas represent coins whereas greens represent paper money.
Black-eyed peas also take me back to so many hours spent on the porch of my maternal grandparents, shelling peas. Back then, I didn’t see the point, but a lot more was exposed than delicious peas as we sat around freeing the peas from their hulls. It was a time for telling stories, intergenerationally. Shelling the peas also gave us an appreciation for the work that goes into the food we eat.
The more I read articles about traditional southern New Year’s food, the more I knew I needed to include cornbread. However, cornbread doesn’t touch a sentimental or superstitious cord for me.
Apparently, cornbread represents gold.
Therefore, why have I been ignoring you, cornbread? Welcome to my New Year’s Day plate!
Financial Prosperity is Great, But Emotional and Health Prosperity is Even Better
I would love for the pork, the greens, the collards, and the cornbread to transform themselves into more income and less debt for 2017. We are facing big decisions as my 403B dwindles, another child graduates from high school, and my father in law’s health declines.
But honestly, I crave continued abundance in the quality of friendships I am lucky to have. I would love to see the people I care about be free of cancer, chronic health issues, and mental health challenges that no amount of money will fix. I want to be rich in courage: the courage to more confidently state what I need, in my marriage, in my professional life, to my own deepest self.
I suppose the start of all of that begins when I pick up my fork at lunch tomorrow … and dig into that pork, those greens, the black-eyed peas, and the cornbread.
What could it hurt to try?