Starting 2021 With Good Luck Foods!
By the Gastronomes
Starting 2021 With Good Luck Foods!
While the pandemic protocols are still in full force for our restaurant and bar businesses we are looking toward a much brighter future. There is a vaccine now and more people seem to be willing to dine at an establishment – indoors and out – but we need to conjure up all of the good juju we can get. Let’s start off the year with some “good luck” foods that just might help change the course of 2021! We enlisted the help of Real Simple contributor, Betty Gold, and she has outlined the lore of 9 of these lucky edibles for us.
“We pour bubbly on New Year’s Eve, but what about the menu? That depends on where you live. In different cultures, certain foods are considered to bring good luck in the year ahead. These traditional New Year’s food options all have unique stories behind them, and are well worth considering putting on your menu as you set your 2021 intentions.
Whether it is black-eyed peas on a New Year’s Day brunch or cabbage on New Year’s Eve, adding these New Year’s good luck foods to your menu plans are a delicious way to say “see-ya” to the old year and “hello” to a lucky new year.
Eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is a time honored tradition. Not to be confused with green peas (or the hip hop band!), black-eyed peas are actually a kind of bean. There are a few different reasons why they’re associated with luck on New Year’s Day. One theory anchors the tradition in the Civil War, when Union soldiers raided the Confederate army’s food supply, leaving behind only this bean. Another is anchored in African American history, where newly-freed slaves celebrated the January 1863 Emancipation Proclamation with dishes made of black-eyed peas—one of the few foods available to slaves. But other theories date the legume’s lucky reputation all the way back to Ancient Egypt, suggesting that eating the pea—a vegetable readily available to even the poorest slaves—was a way to show humility to the gods.
Ham is often a holiday centerpiece, but pork is specifically known to bring good luck on New Year’s Day. Why is pork a New Year’s a tradition? First, it has to do with the way pigs, as opposed to other animals, behave. According to some theorists, while chickens and turkeys scratch backward, a pig buries his snout into the ground and moves forward—in the same direction you want to head in the New Year. Another reason is logistics: Pigs are traditionally slaughtered in late fall, which made pork an ideal choice to set aside for celebrating the New Year. Pork (and cabbage) eaten on New Year’s is a tradition that hails from Germany and Eastern Europe, and was brought from there to America by people who settled in the United States.
Right alongside the pork is often sauerkraut or some form of cabbage. This tradition also hails from Germany and Eastern Europe, and is, again, rooted in simple logistics: A late fall harvest coupled with a six-to-eight-week fermenting process means that sauerkraut is just about ready when New Year’s rolls around. But cabbage on New Year’s is also steeped in symbolism—the strands of cabbage in sauerkraut or coleslaw can symbolize a long life, while cabbage can also symbolize money.
Black-eyed peas naturally go hand-in-hand with greens as a great combination, but greens themselves are known to be lucky for New Year’s. Why do people eat collard greens on New Year’s? It’s all about the green, which symbolizes money and prosperity. According to some tradition rooted in the South, greens can be hung by the door to ward off any evil spirits that may come your way. Can’t hurt, right?
Another legume, lentils are often served in Italian households, and again, their legend is rooted in prosperity: The round legumes look like coins. Lentils for New Year’s Eve are traditionally eaten after midnight, along with pork and sausages.
In Filipino culture, New Year’s Eve is celebrated with fruits. How many kinds of fruit for the New Year? Twelve, to symbolize each month. Filipinos also look for round fruits, but mangoes and watermelon can make the cut. In Mexico, grapes are eaten at midnight to symbolize the year ahead, and throughout the world, pomegranates, a symbol of fertility and birth, are eaten at the New Year. A pomegranate-based cocktail is a sophisticated way to start the New Year on the right foot.
Fish for New Year’s is another common dish popping up on plates around the world on New Year’s—especially in cultures close to water. For example, in Scandinavian countries, herring was considered a harbinger of good fortune, especially as the silver-scaled fish called to mind valuable money. Herring, heavily traded, also was essential to the prosperity of the country, so eating herring was a way to hope for a good catch in the months to come, as herring had unpredictable migration patterns, and a good year didn’t necessarily indicate the next year would be as successful. The history is complicated, but the fish is not. Today, not only can it symbolize good fortune, it can also make a great New Year’s appetizer. Pickled herring makes a tasty crostini topper on any crostini party platter.
In China, Japan, and many other Asian countries, it’s customary to serve and eat noodles on New Year’s Day. Their length symbolizes longevity—just make sure not to break or shorten the noodles during the cooking process. Serve soba noodles, udon or sesame stir-fried noodles.”
We are doing all we can to get our readers to patronize their local eateries as much as they can via to-go, delivery or dine-in. Every one of the foods mentioned here can be purchased at many of these establishments. Please know that all pandemic protocols are being followed for your safety so please do what you can to support them.