Eating and Cooking Like the Witch of this Place

For me, part of being “the Witch of this place,” is growing, cooking, and eating the foods of my landbase, watershed, food shed. Like every place, the South has foods that are traditional to each holiday. G/Son comes to my house at Yule and grabs several ham biscuits. “Oh, I like these little sandwiches,” he says. A friend comes back from a Richmond funeral and tells me about fried chicken, bourbon, peanut soup, and spoonbread. On the Fourth of July, we eat watermelon. In months with an R, we warm ourselves with oyster stew. In late Summer/early Fall, my extended family goes to Annapolis and picks crabs on picnic tables covered with brown paper.

And, on New Years’s Day in the South, you eat hoppin john. I make mine the way that my momma, raised in Florida, made it. Peppers, onions, ham, tomatoes, black-eyed peas, and greens. I add garlic, although I don’t think my momma did, and heat, this year from fish peppers. In good years, you add ham and in leaner years, you add a ham hock, or a ham bone, or maybe only the thought of ham. You eat it to have good luck all through the new year. (I think that, for a lot of my ancestors, just being able to scratch together a filling meal months after the last harvest was an indication of good luck. And I eat hoppin john to, in part, honor their survival and their struggle, to take into the cells of my own body the foods that my ancestors ate.)

Click on the Afroculinaria link in my blog roll and read Michael Twitty’s fascinating discussion of the (largely African) history of hoppin john (and the magical symbolism of each ingredient).

May 2015 bring you health, growth, magic, poetry, prosperity, a sense of place, and true friends. This is my will; so mote it be.

The Brits have a wonderful saying about starting as you “mean to go on.” What’s the first thing that you’ll eat in 2015?

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5 responses to “Eating and Cooking Like the Witch of this Place

  1. Most likely the first thing I eat will be a green smoothie of some sort as that is my breakfast lately. And I’m ok with that. Veggies and fruit filling me up are a good start to the fitness goals I have.
    I love posts about food. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I’ll be having a green smoothie with almond milk, spinach, and a banana. Maybe some almond butter to make it extra creamy.

    May 2015 bring you health and happiness! Happy New Year!!!

  3. Thanks to my adopted-Norwegian heritage, herrings. They’re said to bring luck in the new year and they really do. If you have a whole jar of delicious pickled herrings swimming in sour cream all to yourself – in spite of generously offering to share – well, it’s proof of how lucky you are.

  4. Homemade chicken soup with lots of veggies and wild rice tonight … and last night we ate smoked salmon and ate fish on New Years Eve! Still waiting for the “First Foot” of the New Year — a tradition in Scotland — where New Year’s Eve is called Hogmany — which means a dark-haired man MUST be the first foot over your front door threshold (some even say that he should bring in salt, coal and bread) to wish the household Good Luck for the New Year! When my Mum was very young in a village in Scotland — there were Hogmany parties where dark-haired young men would visit each house — hoping for a “wee dram” of “the guid” (good) Scotch from each grateful family! Cheers and Blessings for the Deep and Best Magic to All!

  5. Was finally able to spend time with wonderful friends on New Years Day. We had the most delicious pork chops, ribs, homegrown green beans, carrots and sauerkraut. Pork and sauerkraut is the PA German good luck foods for the first of the year. Also drank some very good local wine.

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