December 31, 2009

Eat your Lucky Charms for the New Year!



By Sally King

No self-respecting Southerner would ring in the New Year without black-eyed peas and leafy greens. Other culinary traditions abound across the globe, but the goal remains the same:  On New Years’ Eve or New Year’s Day, secure your health, wealth, and happiness by indulging deliciously in specific foods. (There’s plenty for vegans and vegetarians, too.)

Herewith a quick round up of edible folklore.  Get thee to the farmers’ market or co-op, stock up and start cooking!

GREEN: Cooked collards, kale and chard are thought to resemble paper money. Some cultures opt for cabbage, found in many forms from Korean kimchee to Britain’s Bubble and Squeak.


CIRCLES: Lentils—the shapeof coins– are a favorite in Italy and Hungary. Coins appear literally in some parts of Greece and Eastern Europe: the cook adds a coin to cake batter while making vasilopita. More circles:  olie bollen (a doughnut-type sweet) signifies a completed year; an unbroken circle.

TWELVE: Those of Spanish and Cuban heritage insist that each guest or family member consume exactly one dozen grapes, a nod to each hour on the clock and remembrance of the months that have passed and those to come.

SEVEN: Filipinos celebrate with seven types of round fruit as seven is considered  a lucky number. Round fruits are chosen because the shape is symbolic of money.

FISH: At the stroke of 12 in Poland and parts of Scandinavia, it’s said that pickled herring should be the first thing one ingests.  Why? The act insures a good catch for the local fishermen, which in turn promises full bellies for all.

PORK: Pigs represent progress in that they move forward after rooting in the ground. (The reverse is true for lobster and chicken, which—to some—are considered bad luck since they can move backwards, symbolizing regression and living in the past.)

NOODLES: Many Japanese indulge in long noodles on New Years Eve or New Years Day as a symbol of long life. But beware:  don’t cut or break the noodle before it’s in your mouth!


Sally King is a freelance food writer based in the Rockies. She was a Senior Editor for Bon Appétit and House Beautiful and Associate Food Editor for House & Garden. She recently served as a columnist for winereviewonline.com and Big Sky Journal. She writes and produces food, wine, lifestyle, design and travel pieces for Metropolitan Home, Everyday with Rachel Ray, Los Angeles Times, Forbestraveler.com, Epicurious.com, Country Home, Natural Home and others.

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