Every year for generations, my family, along with other southern families, have welcomed the new year with a traditional meal of pork, collard greens, black eyed peas, and corn bread. The special thing about this meal is that each food symbolizes something to come in the new year. Also, like any good tradition, its origin is clear as mud. According to my grandmother, "the meal started as a transition meal as a way to move from the rich food of the Christmas season to the simpler food of the rest of the year." However, this idea is completely thrown out the window when the huge platter of dessert is brought out after the meal.


pasta, chicken
Ella James

It doesn’t matter if you barbecue, smoke, roast, or eat it raw; pork is pork, and if you eat it, you are guaranteed good health for the coming year. In my family, the tradition is barbecued with a vinegar base sauce. This is important because where you stand on the vinegar vs. mustard barbecue debate is a very important question in the South, just like what football team you root for.

Collard Greens 

kale, herb, vegetable, tea, spinach
Ella James

Collard greens are supposed to bring wealth in the coming year because of their green color. It may sound stupid, but there is some truth to all of this. One year, my brother ate an entire dinner plate of collard greens and not even a month later got his first job.  

The Green Smoothie 

smoothie, vegetable, cream, yogurt, dairy product, milk
Ella James

This dish is a family tradition and a very new one. I don't like collard greens, so I take the uncooked leaves and make a green smoothie with a banana, pineapple, greek yogurt, red grapes, a clementine, and an orange. It's a perfect solution because I get the benefits of the collards (wealth in the new year), but I don't have to taste the collards.

Black Eyed Peas 

oatmeal, rice
Ella James

Que the terrible Black Eyed Peas joke. The peas symbolize luck in the new year, and some people say the peas look like lucky pennies. In my family, we usually mix the black eyed peas with rice, chunks of bacon, and onions cooked in bacon fat to make Hoppin’ Johns. This South Carolina Lowcountry dish does not look very good, but makes up for it in flavor.  


toast, bread
Ella James

Some people I have talked to claim that the cornbread also symbolizes wealth because of the gold color. In our family, it's like salt and pepper for this meal; it is always on the table. The best way, in my opinion, to eat cornbread is warm and slathered with butter and honey.

Well, in the words of just about any southern grandmother, “Happy New Year Y’all, and eat up before it gets cold!” 

Ella James