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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Good luck for the New Year

As a child, growing up in the North, I don't remember any traditional New Year's foods, though I do remember my parents ate oyster stew on New Year's Eve and I hated it. Doesn't sound good to me today, though I love oysters. But now that I'm sort of a southerner, I've run into the ham and black-eyed peas tradition./
A variety of reasons are suggested for why we eat ham for good luck, ranging from it fits with the menu of cornbread and black-eyed peas to the Oriental belief that pigs are smart and therefore signify succeess in business. The most common origin of this tradition seems to be that pigs are rotund (success) and they root with their noses, so they are always moving forward. Eat pig in some variety for the New Year and  you'll move forward. Black-eyed peas signify coins, so if you want wealth in the coming year, you have to eat a whole lot of peas. Greens indicate the green of money and are also supposed to bring wealth.
When I first discovered this tradition, I hadn't yet learned to like black-eyed peas, so I made Hoppin' John, that stew of diced ham, onions, celery, black-eyed peas, and rice. We called it Hoppin Uncle John in honor of a favorite uncle. But these days I just serve peas, and since I love a good ham, I fix that. So my menu for Tuesday night is ham, black-eyed peas, cheese grits (instead of cornbread), and a spinach casserole. My daughter wants chilis in the grits but I said no because I want her son to eat them. An appetizer of cream cheese with two toppings--pesto on one small block and jalopeno jelly on the other. And for my son-in-law, who will be mightily disappointed that I'm serving spinach, I'll offer an appetizer of sliced radishes on cream cheese covered pumpernickel. He loves radishes--and surely somewhere there must be something about them bringing luck.
I'm on a new campaign to make my local grandson a less picky eater. I will tell him if he doesnt like something, please do not announce it at the table. He really doesn't like meat, and I figure he should respect that, but I figure he'll eat grits nd peas. His distaste for meat distresses his father who is strictly a meat and potatoes person. I've forbidden my daughter to hop up and get him chicken nuggets--do you know how bad those things are for him? Plus that's rude, and that sturdy child is not going to waste away. I will ask both my daughter and son-in-law to take a small serving of spinach, taste it at least once, and if they don't like it, do not mention it. I'm tired of picky eating being a conversation topic at the dinner table. My son-in-law is vegetable-challenged, and seems to think it's sort of a cute trademark. No more.
So where's my recipe for this column? Totally unrelated, here's a dip that confirmed sauerkraut haters, including said son-in-law, love:

Reuben dip

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup Thousand Island dressing
1/3 lb. sliced deli corned beef, chopped
3/4 cup sauerkraut, well drained
8 oz. Swiss cheese, copped

Mix cream cheese and dressing, then stir in other ingredients. Spead in a 9-inch pie pan and bake until heated through. Stir gently.
Serve with rye crackers or cocktail rye bread.

Happy 2013 everyone!

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