It’s New Year’s Eve. Let’s take a day off from the woes of the world and talk about food —
pork and sauerkraut
, to be specific. After all perhaps with 2009, a new year, the world will have better luck.
The Wilmington News Journal, wnewsj.com, carries an article entitled “Pork and sauerkraut lead the way for New Year’s traditions” that talks about the role food plays in tradition and particularly the role pork plays in having good luck.
So why is the pig a good animal for the New Year? What traits does the pig bring to the future?
A hog cannot look backwards without turning around so it is considered positive looking to the future.
Pork and sauerkraut are considered good luck because sauerkraut is technically cabbage, considered to be lucky.
Other takes on pork include China’s belief that the pig is honest, tolerant and diligent. German tradition believes that pork keeps evil away. And, did you ever wonder why so many cultures have their children use piggy banks?
My ancestors came from Germany and Poland. Their adaptation to the United States was fueled by food.
First, they worked in the town stockyards. In cases where they lived out of town they raised pigs instead of beef.
Dinners at their home revolved around pork, sauerkraut and bread and lots of it. Everything came from the earth.
Of interest was when they did eat ground beef they often ate it raw. This was a cultural hand-me-down because armies didn’t have time to cook their food. The technical term today is “steak tartar.”
However, food isn’t a light subject that has no place in the seriousness of current world events. Food reflects the survival of certain cultures as well as giving a history about how some of our more expensive dishes came to be.
Consider Asian cuisine. Asians have made food out of roots and vegetables that are considered gourmet. Further, their sauces are made with the most basic ingredients.
Often wonderful dishes were nothing more than cultures trying to make inferior food palatable.
Consider the reason so many Italian dishes have sauce. The Jewish and French concoction of liver pate and inferior beef equals Beef Wellington. Plank steak in strips with basic cooking wine offers a good dish and plank steak is a very cheap cut of meat.
Of course African-American culture developed barbecuing inferior parts of the chicken such as the wings to survive their poor options of eating.
So what does all of this have to do with New Year’s Day?
Pork represents the future. Food represents the creativity and resilience of humanity. In 2009 we need that more than ever. Mankind has a dramatic challenge this year, but oddly looking at our menus reaffirms the fact we can rise to the occasion.