Good Luck Foods

Delve into superstitions around foods for luck — generally connected to money, prosperity and having enough to eat — and try some lucky recipes.

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 opens in a new tab and another wonderful “green” dish is this amazing Kale Waldorf Salad opens in a new tab. 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. I

n 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 opens in a new tab, and here is a truly yummy Tofu and Black Bean Tacos opens in a new tab 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 opens in a new tab. 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 opens in a new tab.

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 opens in a new tab. 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.

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