Black Eyed Peas, Collard Greens, and Hog Jowls

Well, here we are in the New Year.  2012–who would have ever thought that it would get here.  I feel older just thinking about it.  Of course, I hit the New Year by myself.  I have not been feeling like myself for the past few days.  I have been in a funk.  I know that this is something that I must break through, but I have just been blah.

Mama always ingrained in us as kids that you had to eat black eyed peas, collards, and hog jowls on New Years Day.  The peas represented coins, the greens were dollars, and the hog jowls were just a southerners way of adding fat to the mix.  I made all three dishes for New Years.  As I stood at the stove watching the jowls cook in their own grease, I thought of the diet that was looming in front of me for the following day.  Then, of course, you have to pour that grease over the collards to add a smoky flavor.  And now I have to wonder why my backside is the size of a barn. 

Now we all know that most southerners are known for cooking with butter, lard….most anything unhealthy.  I remember, growing up in North Carolina, you learned to just not look into the pot if there was a chance that what someone was cooking would make you queezy.  Many a time I uncovered a squirrel floating in a pool of stew or opened a freezer to find a couple of raccoons posing waiting to be used.  My favorite was the time my uncle had caught a possum, brought it to my grandmas, cleaned it out by feeding it grain, killed it, then required me to cook it.  I may as well had been cooking rat.  That was the nastiest looking thing I have ever looked upon. You roast them whole ( even nastier) with an apple in the mouth.  I have never been more repulsed.

How would I ever know that the culinary customs of my family would prepare me for things to come.  I remember a mission trip to Ecuador.  We were all sitting around the table waiting for our hosts to bring out the evening meal.  He comes to the table with a tray with an animal splayed out on it…..it looked like a rat.  I found out that it was “Cuy” or guinea pig.  Most everyone else was horrified…..to me, it tasted like bbq pork.  Not bad.  I also remember being fed a gray potato.  Most anyone else would have been horrified and run straight for the antibiotics…not me.  I had eaten catfish stew, which in my opinion was like drinking mud.

I have learned, over the years, that every people group can be identified by their food and customs.  I guess I have always lived on Andrew Zimmern’s philosophy…”If it tastes good, eat it.”

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