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Savory tradition will ring in 2014
1 New Year Tradition pic1
Gordon G.P. Pirkle Jr. de-stems the first of 50 bushels of collard greens for the traditional New Year Days meal on Wednesday. - photo by David Renner Dawson Community News

One local restaurant is doing its part to keep a Southern New Year's Day tradition alive.

The Dawsonville Pool Room will be offering its traditional all-you-can-eat buffet of collard greens, black-eyed peas, hog jowl and cornbread starting at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

"This just caught on in the last 10 or 15 years," said owner Gordon Pirkle. "It got to be a real tradition where people came from all around in places like Forsyth, Lumpkin and Hall counties for lunch."

It was originally intended to be a small gathering for Pool Room employees, according to Pirkle.

"We started this tradition back when Bully was still alive, and he's been dead a long time. Originally, he'd cook a pot mostly for us," he said. "Then people started coming in for some.

"That went on for years and then when I added on the dining room in about 1990, it really started picking up. After I got in the catering business, I really had the equipment to start cooking a lot of food."

Pirkle and his crew will begin cooking about 7 a.m. Tuesday to prepare the more than 60 bushels of greens and 80 pounds of black-eyed peas and pork for the traditional southern meal.

"If I'm lucky, I'll be done by 10 a.m. with the first batch," he said. "Then I let them sit overnight. Black-eyed peas and collard greens enhance their flavor if you let them sit overnight."

The next batch will start about 8 a.m. Wednesday.

"It's a good tradition. I think it'll be bigger this year," said Pirkle's son, Gordon, or "G.P." "It keeps growing and growing. We've had a lot of people come by and tell us they'll be here for it. They started calling us last week to make sure we were still doing it."

The menu is thought to bring luck and fortune for the coming year. Black-eyed peas represent good luck, with a person suggested to eat 365 of them to stay lucky, while collard greens represent money and pork represents looking forward.

"Us country folks was raised up with this New Year's Day tradition," Pirkle said. "I was raised that if you didn't eat any collard greens, you wouldn't make any other greens that year. The peas represented the change through the year. Hog jowls was for seasoning."

The younger Pirkle said he likes to help his father keep the traditions alive.

"That's one good thing about these small towns," he said. "We've got a lot of traditions and we like to keep to them."

Last year's meal drew in about 300 people, according to the elder Pirkle.

"We about turned those dishes around about four times, with about 75 people for each turn," he said.

"Like I always tell people: ‘Why stink up your kitchen when you can come to the Pool Room and have your tradition here?' And we don't only stink up the Pool Room, we stink up the whole town."

Pirkle was referring to the restaurant's tradition of cooking the greens outdoors in large pots.

"I want people to see the steam coming from outside and smell the collards when they ride through town," he added.

And don't worry if you don't get any of the Pool Room's greens and peas on New Year's Day. There tends to be plenty left over.

"Anything we have left over, we put them away in the freezer and, until we run out, I serve them on the menu on Thursdays," Pirkle said. "Come soon, though. They don't tend to last that long."