Four holidays all in one week – Lincoln’s Birthday, Mardi Gras, Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year. Talk about a week to party! Celebrate one, celebrate all. What matters is you have everything you need to celebrate in proper style.
In food historian, Rae Katherine Eighmey’s book, “Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen: A Culinary View of Lincoln’s Life and Times,” we learn our 16th president liked to cook. According to Eighmey, one of Lincoln’s favorite foods were apples. Given the prolific orchards throughout the mid-Atlantic region, it’s no wonder apples were a staple at the White House.
If there is one holiday that screams FOOD, it’s Fat Tuesday. Depending on your geography, traditional foods vary from sweet pastries like King Cake and doughnuts to heartier fare such as gumbo, po’ boys and seafood. The whole idea, no matter where you’re from, is to use up the eggs, milk, butter, lard, yeast, and sugar prior to the Lent fast.
Pancakes are traditional. In the Pennsylvania Dutch region, the day is referred to as Shrove Tuesday which means Fastnachts. Had I grown up in New Orleans I would have called them Beignets. The recipes and folklore for both are similar, warning that if not eaten on Fat Tuesday the crops will suffer the following year. As a farmer, you can bet on Monday night my dough will be rising.
Although this holiday has its roots in the festival of Lupercalia, the Roman god of agriculture, I much prefer flowers and chocolate over sacrificing a goat while slapping women and crops with the bloody hide to make them more fertile in the coming year. (Hey, how about another helping of Fastnachts?) Let’s stick with chocolate.
The Aztecs have been gifting loved ones with chocolate long before Valentine’s Day. It was John Cadbury who first packaged his confections in a heart-shaped box in 1822 beginning a tradition that continues today.
Chinese New Year
If you’re not stuffed by now, you will be as food plays a significant role in celebrating the “Spring Festival.”
Different foods, all that can be found at Central Farm Markets, have symbolic meanings.
- Eggs: big and healthy family
- Lobster: endless money rolling in
- Shrimp: fortune and wealth
- Roasted pig: peace
- Duck: loyalty
- Peaches: longevity
- Fish: surplus and wealth
And if you’re not up for cooking, Washington D.C. boasts one of the largest celebrations in the country.
So, munch on fresh apples, fry up some doughnuts, savor some chocolate while snuggling up with a loved one and 恭贺新禧 (gōng hè xīn xǐ), respectful congratulations on the New Year.