Food traditions for New Year's

collard greens

On his blog Frederick Douglass Opie, author of Hog and Hominy: Soul Food from Africa to America, looks at the history of some culinary traditions observed among African Americans on New Year’s Day and also provides some recipes!

Opie explains the stories behind why such foods as cranberry sauce, hoppin’ john, pork and collard greens and black-eyes peas.

Here’s Opie on collard greens:

Frances Warren was born in Atlanta in 1928, but spent most of her childhood in Miami, Florida. She noted that, during her childhood, most families in the South ate hoppin’ John and collard greens especially at midnight on New Year’s. For an unknown reason, some southerners, and folks from the Caribbean I interviewed in research for my book Hog and Hominy, believed the peas represented coins and the greens dollars which if eaten would bring in economic prosperity for the New Year. In other parts of the world folks have traditionally eaten lentils on New Year’s with a similar rational as eating black-eyed peas. Also, I grew up with mother and maternal grandmother guarding the belief that a man must be the first to enter her house on New Year’s if the coming year was also to go well. God forbid if you were that sister trying to come in before a brother showed up at my grandmother’s house. You’d have a better chance of getting into the White House to see the president…. Below is my own collard green recipe for your New Year’s meal.

Collard Green Recipe:
Wash the collards good in plenty of slightly salted water
Start out with 3 bunches which will serve 6 people, they are big but they cook down like spinach. I steam mine in a pressure cooker for 10 minutes until the fibrous leaves are easy to eat. Steaming preserves the water soluble vitamins that are killed when you just boil the greens down like most of my ancestors have done for years.Remove the collards from the pressure cooker and save the water to make the pot-licker. Season the water with 3 cubes of vegetable bullion, dried bay leaf, dried red pepper flakes, little vinegar, and some honey. Had a little liquid smoke which most grocery stores sell if you like that smoked meat flavor (the traditional recipe calls for a smoked ham hock or a hunk of smoked fat back). The pot-licker is full of vitamins and great seasoning for the greens. Sauté the steamed greens with chopped onions and garlic in olive oil with your preferred seasonings like pepper, salt, etc. Add sautéed greens to the pot-licker and let them marinade for 30 or more before serving

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