Martin will be serving up those traditions for the Victoria’s New Year’s Eve celebration, a five-course dinner that includes “luck and money” soup, made with black-eyed peas, greens, ham hock and winter root vegetables. Martin first made this soup when he worked with Frank Stitt at the acclaimed Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham.
Greens are a New Year’s tradition in many countries, according to Epicurious. The reason seems pretty straightforward: the cooked green leaves look like folded money.
In Denmark, they eat stewed kale sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. Here in the South, collards are usually the green of choice.
The more greens you eat, the theory goes, the more prosperous you will be in the coming year. (While we can’t speak to the monetary aspects, we can say that the more greens you eat, the healthier you will be in the coming year. They’re loaded with vitamins and minerals.)
If the greens are the folded money, the black-eyed peas are the coins. “The peas swell and grow, symbolizing prosperity,” said Martin.
There’s also a legend involving black-eyed peas and Vicksburg, Miss., back in the day when black-eyed peas — then known as “cowpeas” — were grown as cattle fodder, not for human consumption.
During the Civil War, Vicksburg was besieged for more than 40 days and food was running out. The people survived by eating black-eyed peas. Ever since, the humble legume has been associated with good luck.
Martin shared a version of his “luck and money” soup for home cooks. “We love cooking the peas and greens with ham hock or bacon to add that salty, smoky pork flavor. We like a good vinegar-based pepper sauce and cornbread to complete the meal,” he said.
Count yourself lucky.
Luck and Money Soup
2 cups fresh black-eyed peas (may substitute frozen)
1 large yellow onion, cut in half
2 carrots, cut in half lengthwise
2 ribs celery
5 bay leaves
1-2 smoked ham hocks
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Add all ingredients to 3 quarts of cold water. Bring to a simmer, and cook until peas are tender. Remove onion, carrots, celery and bay leaves, and discard. Remove ham hocks. Pick meat of off ham hocks, chop and add back to broth.
1 onion, diced
2 ounces bacon or pork fat
3 cups of fresh, cleaned, chopped greens (collard, turnip or mustard greens)
1 cup chicken stock
Cook onion in pork fat over medium heat until soft and lightly browned. Add greens. Add chicken stock. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until greens are tender.
Add greens to peas and broth.
Bring to a simmer and let stand for 20 minutes.
Reheat to serve. Serve with cornbread and your favorite pepper sauce.
New Year’s Eve at the Vic
• Five-course meal, live jazz, party favors, hotel accommodations available.
• Seatings at 6 p.m, 6:45 p.m. and 8 p.m.
• 1604 Quintard Ave., Anniston.
• $65 per person (does not include alcohol, tax or gratuity).
• Make reservations at 256-236-0503.