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New Year’s Eve celebrations will be missed this year. While there may be celebratory fireworks, First Night Boston and New York City’s famous illuminated ball drop, these events will be broadcast for viewing in the safety of home rather than being seen in person by tens of thousands of people. Think “Next year, next year, next year!”
New Year’s Day has its own celebratory traditions – things to do so as to bring good luck for the coming year. In Spain, one is supposed to eat twelve grapes at midnight of New Year’s Eve – one at each toll of the clock’s bell. In Japanese households, families eat long noodles at midnight, specifically “Toshikoshi Soba,” or “year-crossing noodle,” being careful to suck in the noodles intact versus biting them into pieces. Elsewhere in Asia, ‘forward-moving’ foods such as fish are good luck on New Year’s Day, whereas backward moving (lobster, crayfish) and backward foot scratching (chicken, turkey) are to be avoided. Sauerkraut brings good luck in central Europe, lentils in Italy, herring in Scandinavia.
From fall 1978 to fall 1980, we lived in Mobile, Alabama. Besides all-the-time hot and humid weather, and living through Hurricane Frederic, we were introduced to some deep south customs. One we brought north with us (New York City, then Oak Park, a Chicago suburb, now Maynard) was to start the New Year with friends, dining on beans and rice. In time, this evolved into a lot of friends, a lot of beans, and a lot of rice. And collard greens with black-eyed peas and salt pork. And ham. The beans became black bean soup, either with ham or vegetarian. The rice became New Orleans-style ‘dirty’ rice, with sausage or vegetarian. The ham became hams. “With friends” became inviting everyone we knew. Our event evolved into a New Year’s Day afternoon open house that sees 100+ people stopping by.
|Daniel Mark, helping with New Year's Day cooking, Dec. 2005.|
Sadly, New Year’s Day, 2021, we will do without. “No Soup for You.” [For those who lack the frame of reference, that was the catchphrase of a character who appeared in a 1995 episode of Seinfeld (a TV comedy).] There was some consideration toward making the soup, dividing it into quart containers, and inviting everyone to stop by to take some home, perhaps from a no-social-contact table by the front steps, but this grew logistically complex. Instead, Next year, next year, next year!!!
Mark thinks that any soup recipe that starts with a quart of olive oil, five pounds of onions, two heads of garlic, four large cans of diced tomatoes, eight pounds of dried black beans and a nine-pound ham cannot go wrong. Or the vegetarian version, with parsnips, celery, mushrooms, etc.