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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Out with the Old, In With the New

By Sherrie Norris

I read something this week that pretty well sums up my feelings about New Year’s Eve: “I’m not so anxious about staying up to see a new year in, but just to make sure this old one leaves.”

I have a feeling that I am not the only one who agrees to this sentiment.

This has, indeed, been a very difficult year for our community, our state, nation and world. There are few words to describe the confusion, the pain, loss and just overall despair that countless people have felt since mid-March. We can only hope and pray that things start to improve for our families and all around us.

In the meantime, and on a lighter note, I ran across some of my seasonal archives and thought it would be fun to share some New Year traditions, thoughts and ideas that have been passed down and all around.

I truly wish us all a Happy New Year as 2021 rolls around.

Here in the south, it’s a long-held tradition to eat black eyed peas, turnip greens, cabbage, corned beef and cornbread on New Year’s Day. The black-eyed peas are considered a symbol of good luck; and the cabbage, like the turnip greens and cornbread, are considered symbols of money and wealth.

Many believe that other traditions or “superstitions” associated with activities on New Year’s Day set the pattern for the year to come. Here are a few of the most common:

  • Kissing at midnight ensures affections and ties will continue throughout the year. Failing to kiss our loved ones at twelve- sharp sets the stage for a long, “cold” year.
  • The New Year must not be brought in with empty shelves and pantries.
  • It should not be begun with the household in debt; personal debts should be settled and checks written and mailed prior to January 1st. Do not pay back loans or lend money on New Year’s Day, or you’ll be paying out all year.
  • Nothing, not even garbage, is to leave the house on the first day of the year. Don’t so much as shake out a rug!
  • Make sure to work or do a little something related to your work on Jan. 1. However, it is unlucky to engage in a serious work project on that day.
  • Do not do laundry on New Year’s Day; lest a member of the family be ‘washed away’ (die) in the upcoming months.
  • Wear something new on January 1 to increase the likelihood of your receiving more new garments during the year.
  • Avoid breaking things lest wreckage be part of your year.
  • Avoid crying on the first day lest that activity set the tone for the next year.
  • At midnight, all the doors of a house must be opened to let the old year escape. (YES!!)
  • Make as much noise as possible at midnight. You’re not just celebrating; you’re scaring away “evil spirits,” so do a good job of it!
  • Examine the weather in the early hours of New Year’s Day. If wind blows from the south, fine weather and prosperous times ahead; from the north, a year of bad weather. East wind brings famine and calamities. Strangest of all, if the wind blows from the west, the year will witness plentiful supplies of milk and fish but will also see the death of a very important person. If no wind at all, a joyful and prosperous year may be expected by all.


Take a look at how others ring in a new beginning:

  • In Mexico, a large fruit centerpiece graces the New Year’s table. At midnight, each guest eats twelve grapes, to welcome the twelve months of the new year.
  • In Greece, a coin is inserted through a small slit in the bottom of Vasilopita, a New Year’s bread. The bread is sliced at midnight, and the person who finds the coin has luck for the coming year.
  • In Germany, Karpfen (carp) is served whole. Each guest removes a scale and keeps it for good luck. In Berlin, the quest for luck goes even further: To bring about good fortune, locals eat Berliner Pfankuchen, or what we call jelly doughnuts, with wine punch, in the first five minutes of the new year.
  • In Switzerland, godparents traditionally inserted a coin into a Zupfe, a milk-bread loaf, and presented it to their godchildren for good luck in the new year.
  • Brazilians eat pomegranates on the first day of the year, believing that the many seeds symbolize wealth for the future.
  • Italians eat Cotechino, a rich pork sausage with lentils, which are thought to resemble small coins. The more lentils one eats, the richer one will be in the new year. Cappelletti, small heads of pasta filled with cheese and nutmeg, similar to tortellini, in capon broth, is thought to soothe the stomach, and is traditionally served to those who celebrate a little too much while ringing in the new year.
  • Hungarians eat roast suckling pig, putting an apple in its mouth and a four-leaf clover in its snout for luck.
  • In a traditional Moroccan New Year celebration, Herbel, crushed wheat with milk, is eaten as a symbol of prosperity for the coming year. Graif Mekhtamrine, a pancake that inflates when heated, is also served. The bursting of the pancake symbolizes wealth and happiness.

To ensure a prosperous and healthy New Year, whatever you do, make wise choices and listen to an old proverb that I once heard: The way you welcome in the New Year will most likely follow you the whole year through.

May God richly bless you and your family with the happiest, healthiest new year ever possible.


Black Eyed Peas

3 ½ cups canned or frozen (and thawed) black-eyed peas, thawed

3 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt broth

4 oz finely chopped ham

1 cup onion, chopped

2 Tbsp. balsamic or red wine vinegar

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 bay leaf

½ tsp. thyme

¼ tsp. (more to taste) crushed red pepper

Pepper to taste

Bring all ingredients to boil in heavy large saucepan. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until peas are tender, about 45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.


Collard Greens with Ham Hocks

4 bunches fresh collard greens, cleaned and steamed

5 slices of bacon

1 smoked ham hock

2 med. onions, chopped

4-6 cloves garlic, minced

1 bunch of green onions (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

7 cups of water

If collard leaves are large, cut in half after lightly steaming.

Cook bacon in large pot, rendering as much fat as possible. Add water to pot and bring to boil. Add ham hock, chopped onion, salt and pepper to taste. Let mixture boil for 10 minutes. Add collard greens, bring to boil. Reduce heat; let simmer an hour or longer, until tender and most of water is cooked away.