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Eat "Lucky" Foods

By Alana Sugar, December 27, 2009  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Alana Sugar
clover My family comes from Louisiana where New Year's Day means everybody eats black-eyed peas and collard greens to bring good luck for the coming year. At a young age, that intrigued me and made it seem worthwhile to reluctantly force down as many collard greens and black-eyed peas as my small body could manage. I wasn't about to take any chances! Over the centuries, various world cultures created superstitious traditions of eating certain foods for luck - generally connected to having money, being prosperous and having enough to eat. Food, of course, meant survival. I find it especially interesting that many of these "good luck" foods are exactly those that we now know provide a wealth of good nutrition. Here are some of the "luckier" foods: greens_soupCooked Greens: All over the world, cooked greens are eaten on New Year's Day. This is because green leaves are reminiscent of folded money and so became a symbol of economic good fortune. The more you eat on New Year's, the greater your wealth in the coming year. How very true from a nutritional point of view - and that's no superstition! Greens are a super food - packed with a wealth of good nutrition from vitamins to minerals to powerful antioxidants. You can try this Hearty Greens Soup as a meal or these Sautéed Greens with Garlic. The Germans (my ancestors) ate plenty of pickled cabbage called sauerkraut; the Danes ate stewed kale sweetened with cinnamon and sugar; and the southern folks in the U.S. (more of my ancestors!) cooked and ate the collard greens. Did you know that cabbage was a commonly used slang word for money in the mid-twentieth century? It's still heard occasionally today and is acceptable as a substitute for collards in Texas. black_eyed_pea_soupLegumes: In many cultures, small beans, peas and lentils are symbolic of coins and are believed to bring financial rewards when consumed. This is another great example of a good luck food that's super lucky for you when it shows up on your dinner plate! Legumes are packed with soluble fiber, good protein, low glycemic carbohydrates and an array of vitamins and minerals. In Italy it's the custom to eat lentils with sausages after midnight. In Germany, pork and lentils or split peas are 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 French Lentils with Onions and Carrots. In the U.S., during 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 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. cranberry_roasted_porkPork: Pigs are a symbol of progress. 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. Because of its rich fat content, pork is a symbol of wealth and prosperity. Even pork can be healthy. Go for lean cuts, like in this Cranberry and Apple Stuffed Roast Pork. Grapes: In Spain in 1909, a tradition began to 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. There's no doubt grapes are really good luck when it comes to good health - they've got antioxidants, fiber and vitamin C. If you're eating grapes for good luck this New Year's, you may want to try these Blue Cheese and Walnut Dusted Grapes. Isn't it interesting that some of the luckiest foods we have honored for centuries are truly some of the healthiest foods we can eat? Here's hoping that your new year will be better than the past. Got a special tradition your family observes on New Year's day? I would love to hear about it.




Mrs Green says ...
Interesting stuff - I'd never heard of any of those stories! Over here (US) , we're supposed to eat one mince pie for every day of the twelve nights of Christmas to bring us good luck for the coming year. No idea where it comes from - probably a mince pie manufacturer ;)
12/27/2009 9:10:45 AM CST
denise petersen says ...
I have made Hoppin' John every New Year's Day for the last 25 years! This year will be the first that my 9 1/2 year old son is allowed to stay up to see the ball drop, so we will be sure to eat 12 grapes for luck, too!
12/27/2009 10:17:43 AM CST
screwdestiny says ...
I really enjoyed this post. I knew about a few of the foods, but not all of them, so it was an interesting read. Now I'm trying to plan on how I'll incorporate them all into my my meals on New Year's Day!
12/27/2009 7:31:38 PM CST
Jim Purdy says ...
How about starting a new "traditional" food? I have recently become an enthusiastic eater of a salad-like concoction with three fresh ingredients: one chopped avocado, one chopped tomato, and one red sweet bell pepper. Then I drizzle melted unsalted butter over the top. The main ingredients have a couple things in common: All three are non-sweet fruits, and all three originated in the Americas.
12/27/2009 8:53:22 PM CST
Pam says ...
It has always been the tradition in my family to eat pickled herring at midnight on New Year's Eve. Don't know where this came from...my mother is a second generation German who was born and raised in Chicago, but pickled herring seems more Scandinavian to me...not a huge fan!
12/28/2009 11:23:37 AM CST
Theresa says ...
Our family tradition is to have Pork and Sauerkraut with Noodles and Cabbage on New Years day and we are of Polish decent. Our tradition is to place a piece of cabbage in your wallet to stay wealthy all year.
12/30/2009 6:22:44 PM CST
Bettie says ...
In our family, our tradition with the grapes is similar. Except we wish for twelve wishes and desires to follow in the new year. As soon as the clock strikes twelve we eat twelve grapes a wish with each one in a minute lapse. For money we grab a quarter and bury it in the yard. As we bury the coin we say "here I bury my bad wealth". At the strike of midnight we go back to the yard and we dig up the coin saying; "Now I dig up my abundant wealth" It never hurts to try. Best wishes and prosperity to all! to good health and life!
12/30/2009 6:43:09 PM CST
Gloldbub says ...
I know that on my Mediterrannean and French side of my family, we cook rice ...white rice, white puddings with milk and sugar,yogurt and ice cream for a sweet year for the new year, for a blessed and bountiful coming year. Lobster and shrimp for blessed year, a large stuffed chiken or turkey for abundance, stuffing of foie gras, cranberries ans wild rice, pate, sausages (Danish side) oranges and clementines, flowers and candles
12/30/2009 7:42:31 PM CST
L.C. says ...
It's funny that "Pam" should mention pickled herring. That is a tradition in our family, as well. I never knew where it came from, but my Mom is of German stock so I guess we got it from her! I just remembered, as I was reading the article, that I had forgotten to buy some. We also eat black-eyed peas as we are now living in the South. We tend to pick up on whatever is the tradition in the area where we are living. Thanks for the interesting article--we'll have to start eating good luck grapes!
12/30/2009 8:31:00 PM CST
Pete says ...
Pickled herring is a must.........old Ukrainian custom.....love it ......have a jar in the frig all the time.......great with old style rye bread.......yum
12/31/2009 10:06:42 AM CST
beth says ...
we use to eat pork chops with green beans. and since I did not like beans as a child my mom would not cook the beans for me so I had them raw as we say in the north. also scalloped potatoes is a big one.
12/31/2009 10:55:41 AM CST
Linda says ...
We lived in Texas for a few years and picked up the tradition of eating tamales on New Year's Day. Fresh ones are the best, if you can get them!
12/31/2009 11:55:28 AM CST