Happy New Year! As many of us look forward to every holiday season, the new year brings an opportunity to celebrate with friends and indulge in some delicious and slightly superstitious food traditions to start the year off with a heaping helping of good luck.
Today, we’ll take a closer look at 7 foods you can dish up to complement your champagne toast at the midnight countdown.
Do those shiny-scaled bodies remind you of anything in particular? Fish have gained a reputation of being lucky because they resemble shiny coins, and the fact that they travel in schools signifies wealth and abundance. In Europe and many other regions, Roman Catholicism’s restriction of red meat during certain seasons of the religious calendar may have also given fish a boost as a popular holiday protein. Including fish in a New Year’s feast hearkens back to the Middle Ages when preserved cod survived transportation in the days before refrigeration was an everyday convenience. People as far-flung as the Mediterranean, North Africa, and the Caribbean could enjoy fish as a part of their holiday spread.
It’s eaten in a different manner all across the globe. According to Epicurious:
“The Danish eat boiled cod, while in Italy, baccalà, or dried salt cod, is enjoyed from Christmas through New Year’s. Herring, another frequently preserved fish, is consumed at midnight in Poland and Germany—Germans also enjoy carp and have been known to place a few fish scales in their wallets for good luck. The Swedish New Year feast is usually a smorgasbord with a variety of fish dishes such as seafood salad. 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).”
2. Cooked Greens
Be they cabbage, collard, chard, or kale, greens are a healthful and tasty addition to the perfect New Year’s feast. Think of greens as nature’s version of cash money and cook them up in hopes of an economic windfall. Southern-style collards, stewed kale with cinnamon and sugar (as the Danish prefer), or classic German sauerkraut all deliver the green goods.
Chowing down on a dozen grapes at midnight is a tradition familiar to Spanish and Portuguese New Year’s revelers. As the clock chimes twelve times for the hour, have a grape for each coming month in the year ahead. Note the characteristics of each grape as you eat it—Is the first one a little sour? Is the seventh especially sweet?—to get a sneak preview of how life is destined to taste as each month comes around.
4. Black–Eyed Peas
Back in the days of the Civil War, black-eyed peas were a precious commodity. According to Today.com:
“Black–eyed peas, also known as field peas, were used to feed grazing cattle. During the Siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi in the late spring of 1863, the town was cut off from all food supplies for nearly two months. The people were close to starvation and resorted to eating the crops previously reserved for feeding their livestock. If it weren’t for the lowly “cowpeas” (as they’re also known) many people wouldn’t have survived. Lucky or resourceful, those folks created one tasty tradition!”
Use black-eyed peas like you would beans and legumes—in tacos, stir-fry, or in a crowd-pleaser dip like Redneck Caviar—for a nutritious New Year’s treat.
5. Soba Noodles
Japanese people celebrate the New Year by savoring soba noodles. These symbols of long life are best enjoyed in unbroken slurps: chewing or cutting the noodles is believed to cut short the longevity factor. These buckwheat noodles are perfect for Asian food fans and are often naturally gluten free. Need more evidence of their good luck properties? Grains like buckwheat, rice, quinoa, and barley have long been associated with great abundance and plentiful harvests.
Pigs convey an optimistic attitude about the future: they’re always rooting forward looking for something good to eat. That tendency and their generally well-fed appearance earned them a reputation as a symbol of good fortune. Holiday celebrations across the globe feature pork, such as the South American dish “Hoppin’ John” that combines the succulent meat with beans and greens for the New Year’s Eve. Try a mix of cuts and preparations, such as pork loin, bacon, ribs, sausage, or ham, to give your guests reason to “pig out” and start the year in hog heaven!
7. Round or Ring-Shaped Foods