Nana was from Pennsylvania, a place with crinkly pages of folk tales about what you should eat on the first day of the year. I’m not particularly superstitious, but I take no chances. I’m a knock-on-wood kind of gal who will bless you when you sneeze, and every January 1st, I eat the same thing.
Salty pork roast cooks in succulent sauerkraut, dill seeds, and lots of black pepper all day until it falls apart into its own tangy juices. I serve it with mashed potatoes, yellowed by butter, bright green peas, stewed Granny Smith and Macintosh apples with white sugar, cinnamon, and grated nutmeg, and puffy yeast rolls. There’s usually a nice cold Riesling and dessert like Nana’s chocolate cake with buttercream frosting, extra vanilla. The day is calm and fun, and there is only one rule.
Every person in the family must eat at least one nibble of each food. My boys have never liked sauerkraut, and I admit it’s a little funny when they crunch their faces up and gag down the pungent pickled cabbage, but they eat it anyway because it represents gold. They’re not too fond of green peas, either, but they eat them, too, because they symbolize money and wealth for the upcoming year.
I don’t know if the potatoes or rolls stand for anything, but they go well with the rest of the meal. And wine is wine, so I’ll make something up to fit that into this story if need be. These accompaniments suit each other well with the special dinner, even though they are not as important to eat as the roast.
We eat pork because folklore states that since pigs root forward, it means there will be no lagging in your life, and when you have it on January 1st, you will move on to good things for the remaining days of that year. If you don’t eat it, your life will suffer stagnancy.
I didn’t eat pork dinner on New Year’s Day of 2009, the year we lost Roger. And I vowed never to make that mistake again, no matter how superstitious that made me sound.
Well, last May, I stopped eating pork, so I didn’t have any this year. I had everything else, the kraut, peas, and all the other insignificant food I mentioned before, but not the meat.
I mean . . .