Fun food traditions for the New Year

Published 11:40 am Thursday, December 28, 2023

By Kara Kimbrough

I’ve shared this in previous columns, but it may bear repeating. I don’t believe in luck, but instead, put my faith in God’s grace and blessings for the coming year. 

However, like any good Southerner, starting 2024 off without sampling at least one of these traditional New Year’s dishes –  cabbage, black-eyed peas, pork and cornbread –  just doesn’t feel right. 

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First, enjoying these foods on the first day of a new year is a fun tradition to maintain. I love the story of starving Vicksburg natives whose lives were saved by finding black-eyed peas to eat when the Civil War raged in their city and Union troops destroyed all crops but the peas used to feed livestock. 

Thus began an important New Year’s Day tradition. But most important, if cooked the right way, these dishes are really delicious and filling on what is usually a cold day. 

   Other foods that show up around the first day of the New Year in other parts of the U.S. and world include:

 *  Lettuce and cabbage: The Chinese wrap their food in the leafy green vegetables during the Chinese New Year and for good reason. Lettuce in their native tongue means “rising fortune.” In our part of the world, we simplify things. Eating boiled cabbage or cole slaw means we’ll receive money in the coming year. 

* Pork – Germans and Eastern Europeans first began serving sauerkraut and some form of “lucky pork” on the first day of the new year. Like Southerners, they believe cabbage resembles money and increases in value when cooked. I’ve never seen sauerkraut on a New Year’s table, but fried pork chops or bacon are usually a staple on Southern tables.

* Cornbread – Back to the Civil War…if starving Southerners had any corn left in the fields, they ground it to make cornbread to eat with black-eyed peas. As a result of the life-sustaining meal when everything around them was bleak, eating cornbread on New Year’s Day now signifies “gold,” in the coming year. 

Besides looking forward to New Year’s Day, when some form of pork, cabbage, peas and cornbread will make an appearance, I’ve always loved the excitement of New Year’s Eve. Whether it’s a party or gathering of friends around a bonfire or special event, there’s a sense of closing down a year filled with numerous ups-and-downs and starting anew the following day that makes the evening special. 

Here are a few recipes to help send 2023 on a delicious note and begin 2024 with hopes for an even better year. Happy New Year!

New Year’s Eve Dip Charcuterie Board 

Fun idea: Line a long board with favorite chips and crackers and place these several different flavors of dip in small bowls in the midst of the chips/crackers. Cut out slices of cheese with  number cookie cutters in “2024” and place on the board.)

Easy Shrimp Dip

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

2 teaspoons onion, grated

2 teaspoons parsley, chopped

1-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 drops hot sauce (adjust to taste)

Mix cream cheese and mayonnaise. Add remaining ingredients and blend thoroughly. Allow mixture to chill for one hour before serving. Recipe doubles easily. 

New Year’s Day Breakfast Cheesecake

2 8-ounce cans crescent roll dough

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese

1-1/2 cups sugar, divided

1 large egg, separated

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup pecans, chopped

Spread one roll of crescent roll dough (sheet form) in a 13×9″ Pyrex dish, pressing perforations together to seal. Combine cream cheese, 1 cup of sugar, egg yolk and vanilla and spread on top of dough. Lay second can of dough (sheet form) on top of rolls. Beat egg white and brush on top. Mix remaining sugar and pecans together and sprinkle on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. 

Overnight New Year’s Day Brunch Apple French Toast

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup butter

2 tablespoons light Karo syrup

4 apples, peeled and sliced thin

3 eggs

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

9 slices day-old French bread (slice the day before and leave uncovered in the refrigerator)

     In a small pan over low heat, combine brown sugar, butter and Karo until thick. Pour into ungreased 13×9″ pan, arranging apple slices on top. In a mixing bowl, beat eggs, milk and vanilla extract. Dip bread slices in egg mixture, and arrange on top of apple slices. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking and uncover. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes until top is browned.

Top with sauce: (optional)

1 cup applesauce

10-ounce jar apple jelly

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 taspoon cloves

     Combine ingredients in pan over low heat and cook, stirring, until jelly is dissolved. Serve French toast slices with sauce drizzled over top. 

Kara Kimbrough is a food and travel writer and travel agent from MIssissippi. Email her at