Friday, December 31, 2010

Eating for Good Luck

Eating for good luck.  Now that's a superstition I can sign up for!  Actually, when I think about it, I think I only have one "good luck" tradition that involves food, and it's on New Year's Day.

My mother and her mother and her mother and probably her mother too all lived by the tradition that eating pork roast and sauerkraut on New Year's Day would bring good luck all year long.  Our family came over from Germany in the early 1800's and settled into western PA, and a lot of our food habits came from that lineage.  And so that is the tradition I brought into my married life.

My husband, being born and raised in Oklahoma by a farmer's daughter, grew up with the familiar black eyed peas and ham bone tradition.  My mother in law is a fantastic cook, and she makes this dish incredibly well.   I would dare say that she makes it better than anyone I've ever known.  Including me.  Not that I would put up any kind of competition.  I tried once to make black eyed peas and ham starting with a bag of dried beans and a bone off of a holiday ham.  It was not a hit.  I think I was not born with the country cooking gene.

So over the 24 years we've been married, we've pretty consistently had pork roast and sauerkraut for New Years Day.  Always served with mashed potatoes.  Because it's just not right to eat sauerkraut without mashed potatoes.  You have to pile the kraut on top of the potatoes, and add some sour juice from the bowl of kraut, and then every bite has a little sour and a little smooth potato.  Really, it's heavenly.

I usually buy my sauerkraut in a can from Libby's or Del Monte, though sometimes I get it in a plastic bag from the meat counter, right next to the pork.  I dump it into a baking dish.  Back in the day I would add a LOT of brown sugar, and plop the pork roast on top of the bed of kraut and put it all in the oven for a couple hours.  'Cause that's just the kind of gourmet chef that I am. That was back when I thought sauerkraut was supposed to taste more like "sweet-and-sour" kraut.  I was not really a fan of vinegar.

But then in the late '90's I had the opportunity to travel to Germany quite often for my work.  I would find myself being served sauerkraut with nearly every meal.  Sometimes with mashed potatoes, sometimes with boiled potatoes.  Sometimes with potato salad.  But never with brown sugar.  Boy, did my tastes tingle.  You know that feeling your tongue and your throat get when those sour taste bud receptors have been lit up?  Makes your whole mouth twitch!  But, I found that with a nicely cooked piece of pork, and with a good German beer, it tasted really good!  Ah, those meals were yummy!  Since then, I've loved the true "sour" part of the sauerkraut, and even our kids have gotten to where they kind of like it.  Or will tolerate it.  Now and then.  Sometimes.

Incidentally, I asked my German friends about the tradition of eating pork roast and sauerkraut on New Year's Day.  It turns out they don't do that.  I guess that makes sense - they probably have that meal about 3 times per week.  Maybe they have a Big Mac on New Year's Day?

So, tomorrow we'll be pulling out the canned sauerkraut and plopping a big pork roast on top and baking it for hours.  But we'll be leaving out the brown sugar.  And the black eyed peas?  We'll leave those to those cooks who know what they're doing.  Our luck has been pretty good over the years, I think we'll stick with what we know.

Update:  The Pioneer Woman posted a recipe today for black eyed peas dip, so we'll be making that tonight for New Year's Eve.  That way we can get some good luck from my husband's side of things too!

How about you?  What's your New Year's Day "good luck" food?


  1. No good luck food for us except for the traditional "Vasilopita", a sweet Greek bread that is oh so good! A coin wrapped in foil is baked inside, and whoever gets the coin gets good luck for the year.

  2. Pork and Sauerkraut is a big one here in Pa. I usually like to be different and make a huge dish of lasagna!

    Happy New Year!!