Ethnic Culture And Food

January 9, 2013
Written by Rita Cook in
The Welcoming Table
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Food traditions date back centuries, and include a world of different choices depending on one’s ethnic culture, but New Year’s is a holiday when many to adhere to their history. Photo Credit:

Most folks celebrate New Year’s traditions that go back ages and relates to their ethnic culture, but did you ever wonder where these traditions really came from?

One tradition on New Year’s is a good meal, and oftentimes, what you eat on January 1 is also said to determine your good fortune for the remainder of the year.

In Spain, grapes are a popular dish, and many believe that if you eat 12 grapes at midnight - one grape for each clock strike – it determines how each month of the year will develop. For example, if the sixth grape is sweet then June will be sweet too. In Peru, they also eat a 13th grape just in case.

Pork is popular since pigs represent progress, which in some countries, is a roast suckling pig, but in Austria, they decorate the table with miniature pigs made of marzipan.

For non-pork eaters how about fish, Cod, which has been a tradition since the Middle Ages, is as popular as Herring in Germany.

Legumes are another popular choice, particularly black-eyed peas, which is a tradition that began in the South with folks counting them because they look like coins. In Brazil, the first meal of the year is normally lentil soup or lentils and rice.

Another tradition is to eat cooked greens including cabbage or kale, because the green leaves look like money and are a symbol of good fortune. The Germans, as part of their ethnic culture and history, eat sauerkraut on New Year’s, but whatever your green choice, the more you eat, the more you will possibly acquire during the year.

Sweet-and-Sour Sauerkraut/Brown-Butter Creamed Winter Greens

3/4 stick unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1/2 California bay leaf
6 black peppercorns
3 1/2 pounds mixed winter greens
6 ounces bacon with bacon cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices and cut crossways
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes
1 tablespoon cider vinegar, or to taste

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat and add flour, cook while stirring for 1 minute. Add milk whisking and then add shallot, bay leaf, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil whisking, and simmer still whisking occasionally for 5 minutes. Strain sauce through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, discarding solids, and cover with parchment paper. Discard stems and center ribs from greens and chop leaves. Cook the lardons in a wide 8-quart pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally until golden-brown (about 8 minutes). Transfer to paper towels to drain, then pour off fat, heat the remaining 1/2 stick butter in pot over medium-low heat until browned and cook onion, stirring until soft. Increase heat to medium-high and stir in the greens about 1 handful at a time letting each wilt before adding the next. Add the cream, garlic, red-pepper flakes, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; boil uncovered, stirring, until the sauce coats the greens and the greens are tender. Stir in lardons, vinegar, salt, and pepper.



The Welcoming Table