Eat Your Way To a Prosperous New Year.
ull up a chair. Tie on your napkin, pick up a fork and dig in. The very first bite could change your life forever, or at least for the next twelve months. Happy New Year!
The holiday season has long been wrapped up in eating and drinking, but on New Year's Day choosing what to ingest becomes more purposeful. A whole bill of fare has evolved around the notion that, with luck, you really can become what you eat. A whole new concept in dieting: a scheme for a wealthier version of you that doesn't involve marriage to someone you'll never love.
Apparently, when many people think of changing their luck they're not overly concerned with health or happiness or love or fame. It seems they mostly want more money. And this is nothing new. We've been like that for a long time, on New Year's Day or any day.
Auspicious foods for New Year's Day fall into six major types: grapes, greens, legumes, pork, fish, and cakes.
Revelers in Spain consume twelve grapes at midnight—one for each chime of the clock. The custom dates back to 1909, when grape growers in the Alicante region initiated the practice to work down a grape surplus. (Hey, florists in America created Mother's Day to sell flowers.) It eventually spread to Portugal and to Spanish and Portuguese colonies in Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Ecuador, and Peru. If the third grape is sour, March might be a rocky month. Peruvians eat a 13th grape for good measure.
Cooked greens (cabbage, collards, kale, chard) look like folded money and symbolize financial good fortune. The Danish eat stewed kale sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, the Germans like sauerkraut and in the southern United States, collards are the green of choice.
Likewise, legumes (beans, peas, lentils) are associated with financial reward because they resemble coins and swell when cooked. Italians eat cotechino con lenticchie (sausages and green lentils) just after midnight. Germans like lentil or split pea soup with sausage. In Brazil, the first meal of the New Year is usually lentil soup or lentils and rice. In Japan, a group of symbolic dishes that includes sweet black beans is eaten during the first three days of the new year. The south's legume entry is a dish called Hoppin' John (black-eyed peas and rice).
Pigs symbolize progress. (Huh?) They push forward, rooting themselves in the ground before moving. Their rich fat content signifies wealth and prosperity. Roast suckling pig is served for New Year's in Cuba, Spain, Portugal, Hungary, and Austria. Pig's feet are enjoyed in Sweden, and Germans feast on roast pork and sausages. Pork is also popular on New Year's Day in Italy and the United States,
Fish has been a holiday feast staple ever since the Middle Ages. The reasons seem mainly rooted in practicality. Cod could be preserved and thus transported throughout the Mediterranean and as far afield as North Africa and the Caribbean. The Church's red meat proscription on religious holidays helped make fish commonplace on feast days. In Japan, herring roe is consumed for fertility, shrimp for long life and dried sardines for a good harvest.