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Good Luck Foods

By Alana Sugar, December 26, 2011  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Alana Sugar

I feel lucky that my home state is Louisiana. It’s famous for some of the best food on the planet. On New Year’s Day, we usher in the coming year with special good-luck foods, namely fresh cooked collard greens and a gigantic pot of steaming hot black-eyed peas. Over the centuries, traditional cultures have created superstitions around foods for luck – generally connected to having money, being prosperous and having enough to eat. Food, of course, meant survival. It’s especially wonderful that many of these “good luck” foods taste great and can be so simple to prepare. Some are even nutrient dense and that makes them extra lucky. Here are some of the “luckier” foods: Cooked Greens: Around the world, all sorts of cooked greens are eaten on New Year’s Day. This is because green leaves represent folded money, a symbol of economic good fortune. The more you eat on New Year’s, the greater your wealth in the coming year. Leafy greens are nutritional powerhouses too. My German ancestors ate plenty of pickled cabbage called sauerkraut; the Danes ate stewed kale sweetened with cinnamon and sugar; and southern folks in the U.S. (more of my ancestors!) cooked and ate collard greens. And interestingly enough, cabbage was a commonly used slang word for money in the mid-twentieth century. It’s still heard on occasion today and is acceptable as a substitute for collard greens in Texas. A good-luck flavorful recipe is our Sautéed Greens with Garlic and another wonderful “green” dish is this amazing Kale Waldorf Salad. Legumes: In many cultures, small beans, peas and lentils are symbolic of coins and are thought to bring financial rewards when eaten. This is another great example of a good luck food that’s super lucky for you nutritionally when it shows up on your dinner plate! Legumes are packed with soluble fiber, good protein and carbohydrates and an array of vitamins and minerals. In Italy the custom is to eat sausages with lentils after midnight. In Germany, pork with lentils or split peas is a common good luck meal. In Brazil, lentils and rice or lentil soup is the first meal to celebrate the New Year. In Japan, black beans are eaten at the first of the year. Here’s a lucky recipe for Hearty Lentil and Sausage Soup, and here is a truly yummy Tofu and Black Bean Tacos recipe perfect for a New Year’s party. During the time of the Civil War the town of Vicksburg, VA, ran out of food while under attack. Apparently, the residents of the town discovered black-eyed peas and thereafter the legume was considered a lucky food. Some believe you should eat at least 365 black-eyed peas, preferably before noon on New Year’s Day, to ensure good fortune for each day of the coming year! Hoppin’ John is a famous black-eyed pea and rice dish that sometimes contains pork. A favorite dish for observing this tradition in the South, sometimes a small coin is buried in one portion and whoever receives it is singled out for special good fortune. Here’s the perfect dish for good luck this New Years Day – Black Eyed Pea Soup with Collard Greens. Pork: Pigs are a symbol of progress and pork is a symbol of wealth and prosperity. In Cuba, Spain, Portugal, Hungary and Austria, a hearty roast suckling pig is served on New Year’s Day. The Germans love pork sausage and in Sweden, pigs’ feet are often served. We are lucky to have this delicious recipe for Pork Chops with Cranberry-Pear Chutney. Grapes: In 1909, a tradition began in Spain of eating twelve grapes at midnight – one grape for each stroke of the clock. The practice spread to Portugal, Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Ecuador and Peru. Each grape represents a different month; if one of the grapes happens to be bad or sour, it means the corresponding month in the coming year will be the same. If you’re eating grapes for good luck this New Year’s, you may want to try this Salad with Red Grapes and Feta. Isn’t it wonderful that some of the luckiest foods we have honored for centuries are truly some of the best and tastiest foods we can eat? Here’s to a happy New Year! Do you have a special good-luck food or tradition you honor on New Year’s Day? Let me know.




Janet says ...
I really enjoyed your writeup. I now am planning on eating nothing but green food items from here on out. ;-)
12/26/2011 8:48:31 PM CST
Sandy says ...
My husband began our tradition of eating 12 grapes at midnight which we do every year
12/26/2011 9:48:34 PM CST
Debi says ...
I keep black beans as a healthy staple – for quesadillas, salad, side dish, and adding to soups.
12/29/2011 3:08:08 AM CST
Miyoko says ...
Mochi is our family's traditional New Years Japanese good luck food! I like it baked in the oven until it's a bubble and then dipped in sugar.
12/29/2011 2:19:27 PM CST
nik says ...
My Sicilian family has had the same New Year's traditions ever since I can remember...always it's about the food! For us the tradition is a seafood banquet: lobsters, shrimp, scungilli (large snails), stuffed calamari (squid) and fried calamari. And Mom's sfinciuni...deep-dish pizza with a thick bread-like crust, topped with tomatoes, cheese, toasted breadcrumbs, anchovies and onions. Lots of fresh Italian bread, usually escarole and artichokes as veggies. After dinner there is always coffee and Amaretto, Anisette, Franglico and heaps of cookies...regina (sesame-covered), cucidati (fig-filled) and pizzelles. And of course at midnight plenty of champagne! :)
12/29/2011 4:46:55 PM CST
claudia mah says ...
Great traditions info for different countries. Like to share some Chinese tradition. When comes to food, besides meat and veggie, fish is always served, that means there are always extra - $$ and food etc.
12/30/2011 5:37:14 AM CST
Keba Lyons says ...
Wow cool to know these foods are for luck My mom was watching QVC network an the host said that eat a apple at midnight it will bring good luck an good health that is what she grew up I have black eye peas smoking jowls it is tradiions
12/31/2011 7:44:13 PM CST