Yesterday we recipes for a particular “good luck” food to celebrate the new year: black-eyed peas, a southern U.S. tradition.
Today’s tip: Check out more lucky foods from around the world, and enjoy some on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day.
Some are ancient traditions, others relatively new. Pick, choose and adapt your own lucky food traditions for the new year.
In parts of Europe, cabbage, collards, kale and chard are consumed for luck because their green leaves look like folded money (who doesn’t want good fortune in the new year?). In Denmark, stewed kale is eaten, sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon (hmmm….). In Germany, sauerkraut is the veg of choice. In the southern U.S., it’s collards.
Cod has been a traditional feast food since the Middle Ages; and the Catholic Church’s policy against red meat consumption on religious holidays helped make all fish commonplace at feasts. For the new year, boiled cod is popular in Denmark. In Italy, baccalà, dried salt cod, is a traditional food. Herring is consumed at midnight in Poland; in Germany, it’s likely to be carp.
In Sweden, the smorgasbord provides a variety of fish dishes. In Japan, herring roe is consumed for fertility, shrimp for long life, and dried sardines for a good harvest (sardines were once used to fertilize rice fields).
In Spain, each celebrant consumes 12 grapes at midnight—one grape for each stroke of the clock. Each grape represents a different month; the goal is to swallow all the grapes before the last stroke of midnight. It’s not an ancient practice, but dates to 1909, when grape growers had a surplus of inventory. They promoted the idea, and it became a tradition, spreading to Portugal and some parts of Latin America.
Popular from Europe to Asia, legumes—beans, peas and lentils—are symbolic of money. An Italian double-lucky new year’s tradition, sausages and green lentils (cotechino con lenticchie), features a second lucky food, pork. Germans have lentil or split pea soup with sausage. In Brazil, the traditional first meal of the new year includes lentil soup or lentils and rice. In Japan, sweet black beans (kuro-mame) are consumed during the first three days of the new year.
Suggestion: Along with yesterday’s black-eyed pea recipes—all of these are delicious choices, but we’re going for red bean ice cream instead of the kuro-name. You can also add beans to a spinach salad.
Pigs came to symbolize progress: They push forward, rooting themselves in the ground before moving. With its rich fat content, pork also signifies wealth and prosperity. That’s why roast suckling pig is popular new year’s fare in Austria, Cuba, Hungary, Portugal and Spain. Austrians even decorate the table with marzipan pigs. Swedes choose pig’s feet, Germans feast on roast pork and sausages. We wouldn’t turn down a pork roast, porchetta or a baked ham.
Cakes and cookies. Cakes and other baked goods are served around the world, with a special emphasis on round or ring-shaped items. In Italy, that means chiacchiere, honey-drenched balls of dough fried and dusted with powdered sugar. In Hungary, the Netherlands and Poland, donuts are customary (Holland also has ollie bollen, puffy, donut-like pastries filled with apples, raisin and currants. Some cultures hide a special trinket, coin or whole nut inside the cake; the person who gets it will be lucky in the new year.
Suggestion: Avoid broken teeth and choking hazards. Serve cookies or an easy bundt cake. What could be more appropriate than egg nog bundts?
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