Looking for a bit of luck in 2018 ? (I think it's safe to say, we'll need it.) From greens to beans, there are lots of foods that are said to bring good fortune (and even wealth) to the eater. We dip into our Real Food Right Now and How to Cook It archives to bring you the luckiest and most delicious food to eat in the year to come.
(Click through to our Real Food Right Now posts to learn all about the culture and history of each food, how to cook them and lots of recipes!)
Happy New Year!
Beans are considered good luck because they are said to resemble coins, and thus represent good fortune and abundance. In the southern US, black eyed peas are turned into Hoppin' John, a dish made with pork (another symbol of prosperity) and rice (even more luck) and traditionally served on New Year's Day. (Robert Moss, writing for Serious Eats, has a fantastic history of Hoppin' John if you want a deeper dive).
In Spain, Portugal and Mexico, New Year's Eve revelers eat 12 grapes as the clock strikes midnight - each grape representing the 12 months ahead. Got a sour grape? That doesn't bode well for one of those 12 months. All sweet? It's smooth sailing ahead.
In many cultures, rice and other grains (like barley) represent abundance and good fortune. Sticky rice is said to make good fortune "stick" in the new year, and rice combined with legumes (like black eyed peas) is supposed to be especially lucky (and also supplies all of the amino acids you need, to boot).
Where my husband's mother comes from, in Modena, Italy, a traditional New Year's Eve food includes cotechino, a sausage made from the pig's trotter, and lentils. The lentilsrepresent coins, which represent - you guessed it - abundance. (When the sausage is sliced into disks, as it traditionally is, it also looks like giant coins.) Sara Bir, writing for Serious Eats, points out that the visual stretch between lentils and coins isn't so difficult if you picture what Roman coins look like - irregular and with a brown-ish patina.
Pomegranates have a rich history in many cultures, their many seeds representing prosperity and fertility. In Greece, a common New Year's tradition is to throw a pomegranate to the ground: the more they break apart, the more abundance your family is said to have in the new year.
From mustard greens to Swiss chard to collards to kale, greens have long been associated with good fortune, at least in the US, because the flat leaves are said to resemble money. In older European traditions, another green, cabbage, was turned into saurkraut, which was usually ready around the new year and eaten for good luck.
This post was originally published in December 2015.