A Traditional New Year’s Meal
Staying In and Playing It Safe
I am an extremely superstitious person – I avoid sidewalk cracks and black cats, hate the number 13, pick up heads-up coins, and never open umbrellas indoors – so of course I always eat my black-eyed peas and cabbage on New Year’s Day.
But I have a confession to make: This all might be my fault, this entire worldwide pandemic, because I got cute last year.
Instead of the traditional black-eyed peas and cabbage stewed together with bacon and served over rice, last year we decided to mix it up a bit and we had a black-eyed pea salsa with lime juice and cilantro and avocado to accompany fish tacos served with a citrusy cabbage slaw. It was delicious and fresh … and if that’s what caused all of this, it absolutely wasn’t worth it and I’m sorry.
2020 has been, as we can read in any year-end retrospective, a difficult and challenging year, a year like no other, an unprecedented year that showed us what we’re made of.
It’s been bleak, as we all know. I have dear friends who have lost loved ones – grandparents and parents, yes, which is sad enough, but also brothers, sisters, sons, daughters.
My kids, 8 and 14, are, I fear, going to live with the shadow of this for a long time, the way those who lived through the Depression never fully escaped it. As Great Depression survivors hoard aluminum foil and insist on finding creative and sometimes extreme ways to stretch a penny, my kids will probably be conscious of germs and hygiene for the rest of their lives.
“I think I might always feel naked without a face mask,” my older daughter said last week, and even though I am of course pro-mask, it still kind of bummed me out.
When I was her age, I was trying to find different lip gloss flavors that would taste good to the many boys I was trying to kiss … face masks would have put a serious crimp in my style.
But. There is at least, if nothing else, reason to be hopeful.
My older daughter, who celebrated her birthday just last week, was born on the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year – but also the day that marks the gradual return to longer days and rebirth and springtime.
We are on the upswing now. I have to believe that. The days are lengthening. Spring is coming. I don’t blame the pandemic on our current president, but I do hope that our new president might set a better example and manage a more coordinated response. And above all, there is now a vaccine.
Despite my proclivity toward superstition, I don’t actually subscribe to magical thinking. I don’t think things suddenly will get better the instant we hit 2021.
But I believe in science. I believe in modern medicine. I believe in masks and hand sanitizer. I believe it’s worth it to stay home as much as possible, to have brief outdoor visits with those outside our households, to skip the big holiday celebrations to keep everyone safe.
All that said, however, I also will be having a much more traditional New Year’s meal this year. No fresh flavors. No playful twists on the tried-and-true classic formula.
Black-eyed peas. Cabbage. Stewed together with bacon and served over rice.
Because honestly? Why take a chance?
Happy New Year, everyone, and best wishes for a much brighter future in 2021!