New Year's brings out 'old country' food traditions in Philadelphia
December 31, 2012By Lari Robling
January first — an opportunity for a fresh start. And around the globe there are traditional foods that are served to ensure a good year.
At midnight, revelers in Spain and Portugal eat one grape at each of the 12 chimes of the clock to bring 365 days of good luck. And that's just one of the many traditions observed in Philadelphia.
"New Year's Day everybody eats sauerkraut, pork and mashed potatoes," said Sally Shontz. The 85-year-old Fairmount resident grew up near State College, Pa. She says the tradition began in the Amish community and probably goes back to Germany. Every year she gets a delivery of sauerkraut from the Big Valley area to cook with her pork roast.
And how does this make for a good year?
"Chickens scratch back. Cows don't do anything. Pigs' snouts root forward," said Shontz, "and this is supposed to mean that you are going to move forward in the New Year."
Emilio Mignucci, owner of DiBruno's specialty food shops, recalls a dish that will be seen in many Italian homes New Year's Day.
"For that day what gets served is lentils — or as the Italians call it, lenticche," Mignucci said. "So it's stewed lentils like a thick soup with cotheghino cooked inside. Cotheghino is pork salami or sausage that's highly seasoned with garlic and black pepper, and it was done that way because it masked some of the flavor of the odd parts that was ground into it."
Mignucci notes that this dish has evolved over the years.
"Historically the dish was lenticche and zampone," she said. "Zampone is the pig's foot stuffed with the trimming and pieces of pig that were leftover, because they used the main portion of the pig that they were getting ready for New Year's Day porchetta."
While the lentils are said to bring you prosperity, perhaps the dish's real benefit is a cure for the previous night's revelry before you dig into the porchetta sandwiches.
"You would party into the wee hours," she said, "so you would need something hearty the next day to help bring your stomach and your head back."
And if it seems that whatever dish you consumed isn't bringing you the desired results, there's always Chinese New Year on Feb. 10. Eating noodles is supposed to give you longevity. Tangerines and oranges are said to bring you wealth.