Eat Well & Prosper in the New Year

by Gavan on December 31, 2008

Black eyed peas are one of the worlds oldest crops.
Black eyed peas are one of the worlds oldest crops.

I came across this article in The Seattle Times’ Food & Wine section after doing some research on New Years culinary customs. The Missus introduced her Southern custom to my Irish family last year; eating black eyed peas with either collard greens or cabbage on New Years day which represent good health, luck and money. Cabbage to Irish people is like grass to cows, (only an Irishman could make up a proverb like that on the spot!) but the black eyed peas drew a crowd of curiosity since no one in the fam bam had ever eaten them before. I took great pleasure in watching everyone taste something new which brings me to present day wondering what other New Year food traditions are being eaten even as I type. Here’s one of my favourite recipes with black eyed peas.

To quote from the article, “A bite of pickled herring is a small price to pay for prosperity.”


Black eyed peas in the South (USA), typically accompanied by either hog jowls or ham, lentils in Brazil, green lentils in Italy & Hungary. Some say it’s because they resemble coins but it’s also very ancient. Since dried beans swell when they’re cooked, they have always represented getting more. Some believe each bean represents a day of good health. That means you need to scarf down 365! Better get cracking.


Traditional New Year foods are also thought to bring luck. Many cultures believe that anything in the shape of a ring is good luck, because it symbolizes “coming full circle,” completing a year’s cycle. For that reason, the Dutch believe that eating donuts on New Year’s Day will bring good fortune. Wonder what they were smoking that day??


Cabbage is another “good luck” vegetable, also considered a sign of prosperity, that is consumed on New Year’s Day by many. Collards in the South, cabbage in Korea (kimchi), Bosnia, Croatia and Germany (sauerkraut). Southerners think green leaves represent dollars, but connections to leafy greens date to cultures that didn’t have green paper currency. It probably has more to do with ancient beliefs that green is lucky because of its connection to spring and new growth.


In some regions, rice is a lucky food that is eaten on New Year’s Day. Rice swells when cooked so it symbolizes getting more in the Piedmont region of Italy.


Egg rolls and stacks of spring rolls represent gold bars in some Asian cultures.


Herring, pickled and not pickled, in Germany, Scandinavia, Poland; cod in Denmark and Italy. Fish stands for prosperity because of the need for a good catch or from the idea of hauling in riches. Some Asian cultures also serve fish with the head and tail on to represent a complete life.


Pork stands for prosperity & abundance in many cultures from Eastern to Western. There are several theories but the most common is that because pigs root while moving forward, they represent moving forward and gaining riches. (Associated with bad luck: Cows, which stand still to eat, chickens, which scratch backward, and lobsters, which move backward.)

A bit of interesting foodie info to reign in health and prosperity in the New Year. Cheers to lots of it!

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