Although a glass of champagne at midnight and a kiss may be the way most Americans celebrate the new year, people around the world enjoy a variety of traditional food customs. Special cakes and breads, herring (representing abundance), long noodles (a long life), pigs (good luck), and field peas (coins) are a few of the many ways we share a meal with family and friends to usher in a new year of prosperity.
When our tribe was young, my friend Judy Gervais Williams (originally from Aroostook County) introduced me to the French Acadian custom of split pea soup. On New Year’s Day, our two families would enjoy skating or sliding and then rendezvous for an early supper. Noses and cheeks pink with cold, we’d gather round to enjoy a bowl of robust porridge, swap stories, and share memories.
The recipe for Lentil & Ham Soup is a traditional version of a filling, stick-to-your-ribs stew. A creative use of the remnants of the Christmas Day dinner’s baked ham inspired this recipe. Lentils and chopped vegetables are simmered in a hearty ham broth. While you may find that chopping vegetables is a laborious process, a food processer makes quick work.
This savory soup cooks up quite quickly, but like most classics, a day or two (or more) of “rest” allows the flavors to marry. By adding cooked ham and a small amount of pork sausage, it is also an economical way to stretch the meat budget and still provide plenty of protein without sacrificing flavor.
The recipe for Lentil & Ham Soup is only a template for the cook’s creativity. Vary the veggies, go wild with fresh herbs, add more meat or even pasta. For a special luncheon or supper, enjoy hot bowls of soup with freshly baked corn bread or popovers, a slaw or salad and applesauce.
This hearty soup is delicious packed in a thermos for the lunch box. Freeze extra in quart containers for a quick supper.
Start your own family tradition, and may you have good fortune in the new year!