Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Swinging Doors on New Year's Eve

Janus am I; oldest of potentates;
Forward I look, and backward, and below
I count, as god of avenues and gates,
The years that through my portals come and go.
Longfellow; The Poet's Calendar

Janus is the Roman god of gates and doors; beginnings and endings, always looking in two directions. The beginnings of each day, month and year were sacred to Janus. The Romans believed that each morning at dawn Janus opened the gates of heaven to welcome the morning only to close them at dusk. For this, he was worshipped as the god of all doors, gates, and entrances. Under his protection was the beginnings of all new journeys. He was worshipped at the beginning of the harvest time, planting, marriage, birth, and other types of inaugural events. As the doorkeeper of the future, Janus was depicted with a staff in his left hand and a key in the other. On early Roman coins, "the god's god" was portrayed with two faces, originally one face was bearded while the other was not. The consecration of the month of January took place with offerings of meal, salt, frankincense, and wine, each as a new offering to its namesake; Janus.

Hark, the cock crows, and you bright star
Tell us the day, himself not far...
With him oft Janus doth appear,
Peeping into the future year.

A calendar is an arranged tracking of time. Divided into days of the weeks, months of the year and future years, a calendar measures the time with calculations involving the sun, moon, stars, and tides. It is a journalized almanac sometimes masquerading as a blog...A blog of Monthly Celebrations which could not exist were it not for chronicles of the past, the forecasts of the future and people who remind us of the past and inspire the future.

1934 Dinner MenuOn this day, the last day of a year of many highs and lows, I would like to share with you a tender piece of the past illustrated in the following New Year Dinner menu. In a way, I suppose, an old menu also gives us a glimpse of the bill of fare for years gone by. In this case, I have chosen a menu from 1934. You see, 1934 was 75 years ago; also a time of turmoil yet greeted with much anticipation. Through-out the year, I will be sharing tidbits of 1934 as written in the issues of American Cookery Magazine. I am quite lucky to have a complete set of issues for 1934 and I thought it would be interesting to measure the months in 1934 to the months ahead in 2009. Although this contrast will not be the complete focus of this blog, (there's oh so many fun and bizarre food days to explore) a recipe here or a notation there I think will enhance the journey.

In many cultures before the predictions of the "Hottest Food Trends" are anticipated for the coming year, new year greeters traditionally clear their plates with an assortment of old standbys which involve New Year's Eve superstitions. In our house, lentils were always on the menu. Eating twelve grapes at midnight is a Spanish custom also said to bring good luck as are eating Black-eyed peas in the southern United States. Yes, there are many New Year's Day Superstitions as well. But food superstitions don't only live on in the realms of New Year's Eve, no, they lurk in the cupboards of many cultures at different times of the year. What New Year's food will you indulge in for prosperity and luck? Here are a few suggestions from TheStar.com.

Lucky New Year's foods
Hoppin' John: U.S. Southerners eat this dish made with pork and black-eyed peas. Both of the main ingredients have lucky connotations: pork because of a pig's tendency to root forward, and peas for their resemblance to coins.
Pork and sauerkraut: Germans and some Eastern Europeans serve sauerkraut with their lucky pork because cabbage resembles money and seems to increase its yield when cooked.
Mochi: Japanese eat these sticky rice cakes topped with a bitter orange called daidai. The orange makes the dish lucky because daidai also means "several generations."
Lentils: Italians often prepare a meal of pork sausage and lentils on New Year's Day because of their coinlike appearance.
Lettuce: People in some parts of China eat foods wrapped in lettuce during the Chinese New Year because the word for lettuce is similar to the word for "rising fortune."
Noodles: Long noodles served uncut also are common fare during Chinese New Year. Noodles, which are also served in Japan on Jan. 1, symbolize a long life.
Apples and honey: During Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, apples and honey symbolize the wish for a sweet new year.

While many will be eating ham to welcome the New Year, "it is said that pigs cannot go backward while they root, therefore, consuming ham will keep you moving forward", what are the "food experts" predicting we will be eating in the coming year? Some say we will be eating out less. Others say the trend toward local and organic will continue. Health foods and health awareness will still be rooted in our minds but convenience may have to simmer on the back burner for quite some time. I'm going to refer to the recent Flavor Forecast issued by McCormick® the spice people but, there's a slew of 2009 food predictions flying around everywhere. There's the one from Bon Appétit which pretty much reiterates "All The Things You're Already Eating." Peanut Butter will be big! especially when it comes to desserts. Also according to Bon Appétit, the Ingredient of the Year is Ricotta, the Cuisine of the Year is New Southern and the dish of the year is anything topped with an egg!

A familiar and flavorful plant has been chosen by the International Herb Association (IHA) as the 2009 Herb of the Year. Bay (Laurus nobilis) is a staple in most kitchens as a flavoring for soups, stews, stuffing and marinades, as well as a multitude of other culinary uses. Its glossy green leaves are aromatic when crushed. source
To achieve Herb of the Year status, an herb must fit within at least two of the three following categories: (1) Medicinal, (2) Culinary, (3) Craft or Decorative. Bay is primarily a culinary plant but does have a few, limited uses as a craft herb, mostly for wreathes and decorative items. source

Both Time Magazine and the Food Channel have a list of their 'top 10 food trends' for 2009. The Food Channel forecasts a return to home cooking (Yeah!) and both buying and eating locally (YEAH, YEAH!) I was especially drawn to the McCormick® Flavor Forecast™ 2009 top 10 flavor pairings. I've always found it stimulating to experiment with "surprise" ingredients. I'm also a huge fan of McCormick products. Here is a list of a few of their flavor pairings for 2009. You can find the complete list here.

1. Toasted Sesame and Root Beer: An iconic soda is rediscovered for its versatility as a cooking ingredient, paired with the bold nuttiness of toasted sesame seed. Sesame Root Beer Braised Short Ribs with Sweet Potatoes.
2. Cayenne and Tart Cherry: The flavors of two superfoods – the heat of cayenne and sweet-sour tang of tart cherry – pack a multi-layered punch. Spicy Pulled Pork in Tart Cherry Sauce with Vanilla Slaw.
3. Tarragon and Beetroot: This hip pair creates a sensory feast that is anything other than predictable or restrained. Goat Cheese Beet Ravioli with Tarragon-Orange Sauce.

Before I leave you with a few recipes to contemplate for the new year, I would like to take a moment to thank some of my treasured visitors. It somehow doesn't feel right to think of "invisible visitors" as a duck in her pond does. Yet, I feel a welcome kinship to so many of you out there. Manuela at Baking History who was the very first un-anonomous blogger to leave me an encouraging comment. T. W. always finds an encouraging word to share whether he is leaving a comment or taking us on a culinary journey at Culinary Types. How can I ever thank Jesse head Cakespy for my adorable, sweet clutching banner. What about the infinite chuckles and my very first blog award from Lidian over at Kitchen Retro? How special was that? Very! The Food Company Cookbooks blog authored by Kathy in Texas was the place where I left my very first ever comment. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was quite shy when first started blogging in October of 2007 and it just so happen to be Cookbook Month. You can imagine my excitement at the thought of posting for cookbook month, being a collector and all but I really spun out of control when I discovered someone who probably has more cookbooks then me! Jenn The Leftover Queen was especially patient with me when I enrolled in The Food Blog Roll as was Anna at Cookie Madness when I left my first comment at her blog. My blogging experiences have taken me to all corners of the world. How wonderful is that? I get to read the eyes of the people when I visit photo journalist and educator Dennis Villegas at his blog and share in the trials and tribulations of acey who lives in the Philippines and has a blog called tralalalala. She also loves anything chocolate and food in general:) I not only find traditional Malaysian recipes at the Happyhomemaker's blog, choesf also shares her knowledge of Feng Shui and herbal remedies. I suppose I could go on and on (which I have resolved to try and control in 2009) but for now, I am going to leave you with a recipe from for Chocolate Brownie Pie from the Hershey's 1934 Cookbook and posted by Rochelle over at Rochelle's Vintage and Frugal Recipes and a tidbit of 1934 Heinz 57 trivia. There are so many bloggers out there that I would personally like to thank for visiting, encouraging and for their endearing comments. Courtney comes to mind over at Coco Cooks. The best that I can do for now is to include them in my updated search engine (on the left) and to wish everyone out there in blog land a very Happy, Healthy New Year!

Chocolate Bitter Mints
Melt three squares of chocolate; add 1/2 half cup of shortening and 1 cup of sugar and beat thoroughly; add 1 egg and beat until mixture is well blended. Add 1 cup of flour, 2 teaspoonfuls of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of slat, 4 tablespoons of milk, and finally an additional cup of flour, making a soft cooky (cookie) dough. Chill the dough thoroughly, roll thin on a floured board, and cut with a floured cooky cutter. Place each cookie upon a greased baking sheet and bake about 8 minnutes at 425 degrees. (The exact time depends on the thickness of the cookie) With a broad spatula, lift the cookies from the baking sheet and allow them to cool on a wire rack.
Mix together 1/3 cup of heavy cream, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of peppermint flavoring, and about 4 cups of sifted powdered sugar, making a soft mixture which may be spread thickly without running off the cookies, pressing the top cooky very lightly in place. American Cookery Magazine; January 1934

"The kiss shared at the stroke of midnight in the United States is derived from masked balls that have been common throughout history. As tradition has it, the masks symbolize evil spirits from the old year and the kiss is the purification into the new year."


  1. Eating twelve grapes, one as each bell tolls in the New Year - is another singularly fascinating New Year's Eve tradition.

    Happy New Year!

  2. I'm making cinnamon rolls for dinner. What's that say about our New Year?

  3. A Happy New Year to you too, Louise!

    My family doesn't have any traditions for the calendar New Year, but zhiaoji (dumplings reminiscent of the shape of old-fashioned gold ingots) are on the menu for Chinese New Year.

  4. I'm going to have to wait and see on the New Southern cooking thing. An unnamed person around here was already dubious of a simple thing like Alice Waters' Potato Gratin. In the meantime, the 2009 plan is to enjoy traditional Southern cooking in moderation along with lots more fresh and local food.

  5. Happy new year :)

  6. Happy New Year, Louise! You'll be pleased to know I just enjoyed a bowl of New Year's Lentil Soup at my mom's house, so hopefully that bodes well for 2009. I like the idea of opening a new door. I'm going to have to keep that in mind as I head back to work tomorrow - and looking forward to hearing more from 1934 - I think there will be a lot to learn in that look back. All the best!

  7. Hi Karen,
    I read about the twelve grapes somewhere. I can't believe I didn't include it. Thanks for reminding me and for visiting! Happy New Year!

    Cinnamon rolls on New Years doesn't strike a chord but it sure does sounds like a symphony of scented sweets are on the horizon. Happy New Year, Duckie!

    Hi Adele,
    I so want to post about Chinese New Year but I'm afraid I just don't know much about it.I hope you will be sharing your recipe for zhiaoji when you return from Hong Kong...

    Hi Kathy,
    Southern Cooking is best in moderation anyway so you have that covered. Fresh & Local both sound good but I must admit, I am having a problem with the word localvore. Not the act of eating locally, just the word. Thanks for stopping in...

    Thanks for dropping by Maryann. I'll be popping over to see whats cooking real soon! Happy New Year!

    Hi T.W.
    You can never go wrong with New Year's Lentil Soup! In my day:) I'd be putting some in a thermos and toting it off to work with me:) 2009 v 1934 is going to be quite interesting...

  8. Happy Healthy New Year, Louise! Your articles are amazing. I can't praise you enough for being such an knowledgeable food historian!

  9. Happy New Year, Louise. I have heard about grapes for New Year's in southern Spain: they somehow keep them on the vine so that fresh grapes will be available.

    Also, herring is a traditional New Year's food. That tradition is from parts of Eastern Europe (I think).

    In France they have a fabulous dinner that lasts all evening (starting at 9 or 10) and ending with champagne at midnight. It's the best food tradition I know for the holiday.

  10. Dennis, you are too kind. I don't think of myself as a food historian. I just LOVE cookbooks and feel the need to share my cookbook collection. Thank you so much for your never ending encouragement...

    Hi Mae, thanks for dropping by. I find the superstitions and "lucky" foods eaten on New Years quite fascinating. Thanks so much for your noteworthy contributions.

  11. oops I am late again (2 weeks) O.O
    I hope louise that u r doing better healthwise now and I wish u my dear friend a happy successfull new year.

    I enjoyed your detailed food history all around new years. We used to have always Cheese fondue for Sylvester. lol

    thanks for passing by my blog! =D


Through this wide opened gate,
none came too early,
none returned too late.

Thanks for dropping in...Louise