Many cultures celebrate the turn of the year with special foods. Food is sometimes the way we pray.
In Japan, you eat unbroken long noodles and mochi to ensure a long and sweet life. Greeks eat cakes with coins cooked into them. Italians swear by fat pork sausage and lentils, celebrating the richness of the new year while hoping for the pennies at the same time. In Spain, you savor 12 grapes. And of course, the French find my favorite use of grapes: champagne.
If you grew up--black or white--in the American South, you probably eat a meal very similar to the one on our stove right now. Some people say that the collards in a traditional New Year's meal stand for dollars and the black-eyed peas stand for the coins. Others say you get good luck from eating beggar's food on the first day of the year.
While we were visiting my parents, brother, and extended family in coastal South Carolina, we picked up cow peas (a New Year's tradition even older than black-eyed peas) and rice from Carolina Plantation. Growing along the Pee Dee River are crops that have been grown on this land for almost three hundred years. We're thrilled to discover a local source--or at least local when we travel to my parents--for dried beans, rice, and grits. Time to stock up!