A New Year’s tradition I can get behind

And we’re baaaaack!  Happy New Year, everyone!  I hope you had wonderful holidays and are not too bummed about the upcoming drabness of January and February.

Growing up, I always dreaded New Year’s Day.  No, not because of some existential angst about the passing of another year or because of a sparkling cider hangover.  It was because New Year’s Day meant the traditional Southern meal of collard greens, black eyed peas, and rice.  Apparently, the greens are to bring you money, the peas to bring change (like pocket change, not yes-we-can change), and the rice to bring health.  I always thought the peas were redundant because if you had greenbacks, was change really necessary?  I also thought everything in this meal was gross.  Even the rice, which sounded safe, was some box mix that was soggy and disappointing.  To top it all off, my mom served some barbecue concoction from the freezer section that was also gross.  Picture pre-sauced pork with bits of fat and bone in it served in its square plastic box.  For years, I thought I hated barbecue because I thought this was all barbecue was.  (I love you, Mom!!  To honor you, I refrained from washing clothes on New Year’s so as not to wash anyone out of my life.  Although not doing laundry for a day really isn’t a hardship.)  Needless to say, I did not continue this tradition with my own family.

Fast forward to Italy, a friend here asked me if I noticed all the stacked boxes of a certain type of meat that showed up in the groceries stores in December.  Cotechino, to be exact.  I had not, but once she mentioned it, I did notice the meats everywhere.  It turns out, cotechino (made up of various fatty bits of pork with a disturbingly long shelf life) eaten with lentils is a traditional New Year’s meal in Italy.  Although many Italians eat it at midnight, we opted to try it on the actual New Year’s Day.  The more lentils you eat, the more prosperity in the coming year.

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And by we, I mean James.  He could tell you more on his preparation methods, but he soaked the lentils a very long time.  Like longer than overnight.

Then he cooked them with pancetta, onions, garlic, and homemade stock.

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Once removed from the box, you see that the cotechino is in its own aluminum pouch.  You boil the pouch.

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Then you prick the bag and add the meat juice to the lentils.  Later, you just remove the cotechino from the bag and slice.

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I’m not gonna lie; I was a little anxious about the meal.  Mystery meat makes me nervous and super fatty meat is not my jam.  All of my worry was completely misplaced.  This. was. stupid. good.  The lentils on their own were very flavorful.  I may be adding more beans to our meal lineup.  But with the cotechino, the whole thing just went up about 38 levels.  The cotechino just melted into the lentils.  Everything had a delicious salty and fatty flavor.  We all loved it, including the toddler, but that isn’t really saying much, beans and sausage are both his jam.

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It was a very rich meal.  I couldn’t imagine eating it after a large New Year’s Eve meal, but it was terrific as a New Year’s Day lunch.  (With leftovers for dinner.)  As an added bonus, this would be an ideal hangover food.  Not an issue for me though.  NYE this year was prosecco, sushi, and watching Sherlock with James, which was a pretty perfect night.  Which also is an indication that I’m getting old.

I had not planned on staying up until midnight, but I can report that Italians are crazy about their NYE fireworks.  We had been warned, but I thought after the fireworks spectacular in our old ‘hood in DC (Columbia Heights, represent!), we would be prepared.  We were not.  It really sounded like we were being bombed, and while the fireworks were present all evening, they were really raining down on us at midnight.  Luckily, the kids slept right through.

So, new family New Year’s tradition, ACHIEVED.  Now I just have to see if I can get cotechino back home.  With the shelf life on this stuff though, I could be set for several years if I just grab a few boxes before we leave.

What did you eat on New Year’s?  Any family traditions?


2 thoughts on “A New Year’s tradition I can get behind

  1. maggie says:

    Our traditional New Years meal is 15 bean soup made with the ham bone from Christmas. I always thought this recipe had some story, but it doesn’t. It’s printed on the bag of mixed beans. It is important that the soup include black-eyed peas for luck. The bag of mixed beans doesn’t always. Sometimes you have to add them. (I could easily imagine adding a bit of rice and a few greens to this if you were ever looking for a less offensive way to combine those three foods.)

    A tradition that I’ve picked up in recent years is to “end as you mean to go on.” This means the house is clean and warm, the frig is fully stocked, bills are paid, there’s money in every wallet, and everyone is properly fed and decently dressed before the festivities commence on New Years Eve. The symbolism is nice, but even better: this makes for a relaxing New Years Day with less struggle to get things in order before heading back to work on January 2.

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