Unlike Northern (or Yankee) cornbread, the Southern-style is sweeter, richer and more cakelike. Simply Recipes has a terrific recipe from Elise Bauer here that recommends using bacon drippings as well as the usual butter. It’s not just for flavour but will help to brown the crust and make it easier to remove whole from your skillet. And if you’re making cornbread the star of the meal, why not go that extra mile and throw some chopped jalapeños in there too?
Fried Black Eyed Peas
Peas and beans are a symbol of wealth in the South, although not because of their cost – as the phrase “it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans” shows. In the Civil War era, beans supposedly kept many a family from starving. To have beans was to be among the lucky ones.
Can’t get enough black-eyed peas? Also known as Carolina peas and rice, Hoppin’ John is a Southern New Years’ classic. It’s an easy but delicious peas and rice dish made with chopped onion and sliced bacon, but you can also use ham hock, fatback, country sausage, or smoked turkey.
In some cultures, pork is considered a sign of prosperity. It’s no different in the South. Attend any Southern New Year’s Day and you're guaranteed to be presented with plenty of pork or ham. Consciously or not, it’s a way to set the New Year off on the right foot – or trotter.
Greens are another symbol of wealth, but perhaps a less obvious one. Until you think about the colour of our paper money. Cha-ching.
True Southerners love greens, from simple boiled cabbage or sauerkraut to kale, chard, mustard greens, turnip greens, or the perennial favourite, collard greens. They’re served with almost everything. And a good thing too, because there ain’t many vitamins in pork and butter.
If you don’t know what potlikker is then you ain’t no Southerner. It’s the delicious broth leftover from cooking greens. Sometimes it’s put aside and eaten the next day, with cornbread crumbled into it for substance. But there’s no reason not to cook it with grander intentions than that, especially considering how rich with vitamins and iron it is.
Oh, and did we mention it’s top-shelf delicious? It’s called a potlikker for a reason – you’ll want to lick the pot clean afterward. It makes a superb accompaniment to a bowl of Hoppin’ John, so grab the recipe at My Recipes and get cooking.
What Not to Eat on New Year's Day
Most of the above are eaten on New Year’s Day because they are (or were) thought to bring good luck. That’s not unique to the South, but in cultures all across the world. So what shouldn’t you eat? What foods may, in fact, bring bad luck?
Well, there’s one popular food in the South you should definitely avoid this time of year: seafood. Lobster particularly is thought to bring bad luck because they move backward, meaning setbacks in the year ahead, likewise with chicken, which scratch backward. It’s also said that eating winged creatures could make your luck fly away, but whether or not that applies to flightless birds like chicken and turkey is anyone’s guess.