New Year’s Food Traditions: Lucky Foods from Around the World
On New Year’s Day, indulging in good luck foods for prosperity and health is a time-honored custom around the world. For example, in the United States, eating black-eyed peas is a popular Southern tradition (look for our recipe for “Hoppin’ John” at the end of this post).
If you’re still planning your New Year’s Eve celebration or New Year’s Day brunch and are a tiny bit superstitious, add some of these good luck foods for an inspired and eclectic menu.
Greens: Green is the universal color of money. People around the world eat greens on New Year’s Day for wealth and prosperity. Europeans, for example, enjoy cabbage and sauerkraut while the American South favors greens like kale and collards.
Long noodles: In Asia, long noodles symbolize long life as long as you cook the noodles without breaking them and get the entire noodle in your mouth before chewing it.
Fish: Because they always swim forward and in large schools, fish symbolize forward progress and abundance. Italians eat baccala, a dish made from salt cod, while Scandinavians feast on herring.
Cake: In many European countries, round or ring-shaped cakes symbolize the end of one year and beginning of the next. The person who finds the baked-in coin or trinket will have good fortune throughout the new year.
Pomegranate: In Turkey and other Mediterranean countries, people eat pomegranates for good luck, abundance and fertility in the new year.
Grapes: At midnight In Spain and Portugal, people try to eat 12 grapes in the time it takes the clock to strike 12 times. Those who eat all 12 grapes before the final strike will have good luck for the next 12 months.
Lentils: Because of their coin-like shape, lentils symbolize wealth and prosperity in Europe and South America. Traditional dishes include lentil soup and lentils with sausages.
Pork: With its high fat content, pork symbolizes wealth and prosperity. Because pigs
dig forward with their snouts, pork also means forward progress and forward thinking
in the year ahead.
Black-eyed Peas: These legumes are a tradition in the American South, symbolizing
money and wealth. Recipes like Hoppin’ John include pork for extra luck. Just before
serving, add a dime wrapped in foil to the pot. The person who finds it will have
enjoy extra luck in the coming year.
A few items, if eaten on New Year’s Day, may bode bad luck in the coming year. Two popular foods, lobster and chicken, are on the “do not eat” list. I guess I won’t be making paella on January 1. Here’s why:
Lobster: Because this crustacean moves backward, eating lobster may lead to setbacks in the year ahead.
Chicken: Chickens scratch backwards. Eating chicken, therefore, may make you dwell upon or have regrets about the past, impeding forward progress in the coming year.
Your Turn: Do you follow tradition and eat lucky foods on New Year’s Day? What’s your good luck food?
Although we lived in Austin, Texas, for a few years, my husband and I never adopted the Southern tradition of cooking and eating black-eyed peas. As native Californians, we preferred sushi and mochi, the Japanese sticky-rice cake. This New Year’s Day, however, I’m staking my claim for a prosperous 2013 by making a pot of Hoppin’ John from a recipe by Emeril Lagasse. For extra luck, I’m serving the black-eyed peas with slow-cooked greens and homemade corn bread. (I think my California-girl heart just skipped a beat.)
Hoppin’ John Recipe from CHEFS Mix
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse’s Hoppin’ John recipe on foodnetwork.com
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large meaty ham hock
1 cup onion, chopped
½ cup celery, chopped
½ cup green pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, diced, or to taste
1 pound black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and rinsed
4 cups (1 quart) low sodium chicken stock
1 whole bay leaf
1 teaspoon dry thyme leaves
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or to taste
½ teaspoon chipotle chile powder or to taste
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons white vinegar, or to taste
White or brown rice, cooked, hot and ready for to serve
Finely chopped green onions for garnish
Hot pepper sauce, to taste
1. Heat oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven. Add the ham hock and sear it on all sides. Add chopped onion, celery, green pepper, garlic and jalapeno pepper. Cook for about 4 minutes or until vegetables begin to soften. Add the black-eyed peas, chicken stock, bay leaf, thyme, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Stir to mix.
2. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 45 to 60 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until black-eyed peas are creamy and tender. If too much liquid evaporates, add more stock or water.
3. Taste and adjust seasonings. Remove ham hock and pick meat from the bone. Return the meat to the pot. Add vinegar and stir well to blend.
4. To serve, ladle over rice. Sprinkle with green onions. Add a dash or
two of hot pepper sauce, if desired. Makes 8 to 10 servings