Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year's Day Lucky Foods

Kale Salad- Lucky and Healthy
Different cultures have different traditions of what to eat on New Years for a lucky year. I grew up eating pork, sauerkraut, and mashed potatoes (traditional German food). I can't imagine a New Years Day without  the dinner from my childhood. As it turns out pork and cooked "greens" tend to be standard lucky foods. The type of green and how it is cooked varies by country. Here is a summary of my favorite lucky foods.

The Spanish eat 12 grapes at midnight. One grape for each stroke of the clock (and each month of the year), a practice which began in 1909 with a grape surplus in the Alicante region of Spain. The idea stuck and actually spread to Portugal (except they have 13 grapes) and former Spanish colonies.The rub to this tradition is if you get a sour grape- the month it represent you will have a bad month. For instance, if the 10th grape you eat is sour, then October will be a rough month. One of these years, I am going to try this one.

Greens are considered lucky because they look like folded money and the more you eat, the larger your fortune is supposed to be in the year ahead. In the south, collard greens are the greens of choice. In Denmark it is kale cooked with cinnamon and sugar and in Germany sauerkraut.

Legumes (beans, peas, and lentils) look like coins so they are supposed to be lucky as well. In the South of the United States- "Hoppin John" (black eyed peas) are a standard New Year food. In Italy
cotechino con lenticchie (sausages and green lentils) are eaten and in Brazil lentil soup or lentils and rice is traditionally eaten.

Pork is believed to be lucky because of the way pigs root for food, they keep their feet planted and push their snouts forward. This signifies progress and prosperity. Others believe the high fat content in pork will ensure a prosperous year.

Fish are thought to bring good fortune because they swim forward; others believe they symbolize abundance because they swim in schools. In Japan, fish and other seafood are also consumed because they symbolize fertility (the herring roe), long-life (shrimp) and sardines (good harvest).

In many Asian countries noodles are eaten at the New Year to represent a long life. There is one catch- you cannot cut or break the noodle before it is in your mouth. 

Cakes (especially round cakes because they represent coming full circle) are also eaten in several countries- in Italy they eat panetonne, in Greece- vassilopita (a cake with a  hidden good-luck coin), and in Mexico- rosca de reyes cake.

The couple of foods to avoid are lobster (they swim backwards and you could lead to setbacks), chicken (they scratch backwards which could result in regret), and winged fowl (your good luck could fly away).

This year we had a small dinner party and asked everyone to bring a "lucky" food. The results were delicious and hopefully lucky. Here is what we had:
Cheese coins

Mexican Seven Layer Dip (lucky food: beans)
Pepper Cheese Coins (lucky food: coins)
Kale Salad with Peanut Dressing  (Lucky food: greens)
Jambalaya (Lucky food: shrimp)
Pork Ribs (Lucky food: pork)
Bacon Wrapped Pork with Red Currant and Onion Relish (lucky food: double pork!)
Rosemary and Garlic Rubbed Pork with Rosemary Chimichurri (lucky food: pork)
Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
Sauerkraut (lucky food: greens)
Homemade Marshmallows
Duche de Leche Cheesecake Bars
Peppermint Bark

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