It All Boils Down to This

It’s New Years Day and y’all know what that means, right?  Black-eyed peas and greens, at least for us Southerners.

new years peas
As long as I can remember, my mother forced us to eat at least one bite of black-eyed peas each New Years Day, “For luck,” she said.  Later I learned that greens are also required, if you want to make money in the new year.  And who doesn’t want that, right?

new years greens 2
Luckily in this house a majority (read:  everyone but the little people) like either the peas, the greens, or both.

I’d never realized until this year that this tradition is strictly a Southern one.  I looked up its origin this afternoon while I was cooking and learned that it started post-Civil War, when supposedly those affected by Sherman’s March to the Sea were left with precious little to eat except for the black-eyed peas which the Union soldiers (who called them “cow peas”) assumed were only good for fodder for the Southerners’ long-gone cattle.  The erstwhile Confederates grew strong again on this minimalist yet healthy diet, and the foods eventually morphed from a generic “new beginnings” meal to one symbolizing future luck and prosperity.

As I perhaps have mentioned, I am an English major so I found additional meaning in today’s meal.

Just look at these collard greens, y’all.

new years greens
I don’t know if you can tell but that’s a LOT of greens. (And for only .99 at Kroger, too!)  It’s three enormous bunches which were too big for the plastic produce bag and took up the entire bottom shelf of my refrigerator.  It probably took me an hour to wash and rip them up so I could cook them.  The picture of them in the pan?  That was less than half of them.

Yet after ten minutes cooking, we were left with this:

new years greens 3
Yes, that’s what they boiled down to.  So that’s the source of that saying! I thought, cleverly, to myself.

But I also really did think, and announcedto my husband, that I am going to try to apply the lesson of the greens to any situations (I won’t say problems yet) that arise this year.  Whatever big tangled things I have to deal with, I’m going to envision them as a big mess of greens that haven’t been cooked yet.  I’m going to know in advance that really there’s just a little kernel at the heart of whatever it is that I really have to deal with.  Before I get all worked up and confused and overwhelmed, I’m going to think about what it all boils down to.

Happy 2014 to you!

Bacon Love

I’m supposed to start writing about Diet Rehab today.  Instead I am writing about bacon!  Do you see a problem here?

Actually, that's not bacon, it's hog jowls. We are out of bacon so I can't photograph any. But that's close enough, right?

When I was growing up, there was always a cup of bacon grease in the refrigerator, but the only time I remember my mother using it was when she made green beans.  But I have recently discovered the joys of using bacon grease to cook practically everything!
What happened was that Weigel’s had a buy one get one free sale on bacon!  We go to Weigel’s (that’s a local version of 7-11, which we don’t have here) every day, and if I make a pound of bacon it gets eaten in five minutes by someone–in fact, there are actual fights over bacon.  Bacon is one of the few things William will eat, and Jake and Teddy are always ready for meat.  So while it was on sale I bought it every time I went there.
So then I’d have a big frying pan full of bacon grease just sitting there on the stove looking lonely.  After the fire, we received a gift of a whole lot of steaks.  A WHOLE lot.  Jake and Teddy eat steak almost every day.  I don’t know what they will do when those are gone.  So I discovered that a quick and yummy way to fix the steaks is to pan fry them in the bacon grease!  John doesn’t like his pan fried, so I put a slice of raw bacon on it before I broil it.   William won’t eat steak any more, but he does like boneless chicken, which also responds well to the bacon grease treatment.
Teddy and Jake will eat a plate full of steak and be satisfied, but for some reason John wants a side dish.  How about spaghetti sauteed in the grease that remains after the steaks are done?  (With some garlic and salt and pepper as well!)  Sweet onions sauteed in bacon drippings are pretty delicious too.
What do I do with the actual bacon?  Yesterday I made sandwiches:  avocado, a little leftover tomato sauce, the sauteed onion, bacon, some pepper jack cheese.  When Emily was home I made bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches.  Mostly, though, people just eat slices off the plate the bacon is draining on.
Even the dog benefits from the bacon regime–when I think the grease has had enough, I mix it in his dog food!  He hates plain dog food but he’ll eat that with gusto!
And don’t worry about my rehab–I actually get to consume very little of the bacon myself!