/ The Atlanta Traveler
Atlanta — By Linda Erbele on December 31, 2009 at 4:51 pm

Why are greens and hog jowl on sale in Georgia?

No one knows why exactly, but it is traditional in the South to eat greens and hog jowl on New Year’s Day. And while most readers are wrinkling their noses and muttering “Ewww” — somebody’s eating them, because all the stores have them on sale. 2collards

There are different versions of whether it has to be collard greens or turnip greens (and most people just cook whatever greens they happen to like.) I had to become a card-carrying grown-up before I learned to like collard greens. But I’ve lived here almost all my life and I don’t know anyone who actually eats hog jowl. A little bacon fat for flavor, or maybe ham hock, but that’s as close as I get. The greens are supposed to bring you money in the new year. (Maybe the omission of hog jowl is the reason I’m still making a car payment?)

The other tradition is black-eyed peas — some people say it’s for luck, others say the peas represent the coins that will fill your pockets in the New Year. My favorite way with the peas is to make Hoppin’ John. It’s a black-eyed pea and rice combination that includes onion, garlic, bell pepper and hot sauce. (Some recipes call for tomatoes. I ruined my Hoppin’ John last year by adding tomatoes. Probably why my credit card balance is going in the wrong direction.)

My Tennessee grandmother always warned that whatever you do on New Year’s Day you will do the rest of the year. I’ve diligently worked on novels New Year’s Day for many years — and it’s never helped me get finished with one. I’ve spent the day with a new love only to see him vanish before the year was up. I’m usually cleaning house that day…but it hasn’t made that chore any more or less necessary, so I don’t think you have to worry about that one.

The final Southern tradition that many  don’t understand is the need to have your Christmas tree and decorations put away before the first. It’s supposed to be unlucky if it’s not. I’ve always complied not out of superstition but because I’m anxious for the New Year to begin with no more clean-up than necessary. I have a friend who blithely ignores this tradition and it hasn’t been any the worse for her.

So there you have it — eat those greens and peas because they are good for you and cheap. You’ll have to earn your luck just like the rest of us.

(Photo: personal collection.)

Leave a Reply


Leave a Trackback