Eating Lucky
December 28, 2010 12:58 PM   Subscribe

New Year's has always been a day for eating lucky foods.

Southerners say "Eat poor in the new year and eat fat the rest of the year," which is why they eat Hoppin' John New Year's Day and Skippin' Jenny the next. And since 2011 is the Chinese Year of the Rabbit, how about Welsh Rarebit? Or Nin Gao? Turn Japanese with Osechi Ryori. Or, if you want to go Greek and get lucky, try Vasilopita. And the Spanish 12-grapes-in-the-mouth-at-midnight is fun for the whole family. Any way you slice it, New Year's Day food should symbolize the good luck wanted by all in 2011.
posted by madred (21 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
When I was twenty, I took a trip with my (then-) girlfriend to meet her parents on New Year's Day. We were wee lesbians and her mother was a born-and-bred Southern belle who was also an ordained minister.

Rev. Mama offered me the black-eyed peas -- apparently the lucky food for Southerners? I told her I'd never had it before, my family had always done pork and sauerkraut on January 1.

She turned to me, and with a voice sweet as honey, drawled:

"So, y'all have never had any luck, then?"

posted by harperpitt at 1:06 PM on December 28, 2010 [7 favorites]

If you're in the DC area, let me know if you'd like an invitation to our New Year's Day Southern soul-food brunch. We don't do an actual hoppin' john, but we do have black-eyed peas, collard greens, cornbread, and lots of other goodies (and mimosas and bloody marys). Seriously, about 3/4 of the people there will be MeFites, anyway.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:22 PM on December 28, 2010

It's just not New Year's Day without black-eyed peas. Cooked long and slow with a ham-hock. With some hot buttered cornbread. Yum.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 1:38 PM on December 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Around here people believe that eating a spoonful of lentils at midnight brings good luck and financial prosperity. I'm starting to wonder if my perpetual state of being broke is due to my inability to eat lentils without dry heaving.
posted by Memo at 1:44 PM on December 28, 2010

Of course, nian gao won't be traditionally eaten until (*looks up this year's date*) February 3.
posted by kmz at 1:45 PM on December 28, 2010

Black-eyed peas for us. But my mom and me...well, we liked to cool ours off with ketchup. Now I can't eat them any other way. Don't know if this negates the luck or not.

I have also heard that you are supposed to have a lot of cash in your pocket...the more money in your pocket at the stroke of midnight, the more money in the new year.
posted by emjaybee at 1:47 PM on December 28, 2010

We ate black-eyed peas and hog-jaw on New Year's Day without fail.

My grandmother told me that her grandmother told her, when the Union army marched across Alabama, raiding cellars and eating anything that moved on four legs, you were lucky to have black-eyed peas and hog-jaw, which the Yankees wouldn't touch.
posted by jefficator at 2:13 PM on December 28, 2010

Korean version: rice cake soup. In addition to providing good luck, this is what apparently officially makes you get one year older, i.e., your birthday isn't effective until you eat ddukguk on new year's.
posted by rkent at 2:23 PM on December 28, 2010

jefficator, you were almost certainly eating hog jowls.
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:33 PM on December 28, 2010

The lucky part about Hoppin' John is getting the penny hidden in the dish. At least in my family it was.
posted by madred at 2:41 PM on December 28, 2010

Huh. My traditional new year's day food is pho, because of its magical hangover healing properties.
posted by elizardbits at 2:48 PM on December 28, 2010

Does anyone have a good crock pot recipe for hoppin' John? I'd like to make it again this year and it would be great if I could just chuck stuff in the slow cooker.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 3:25 PM on December 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Thanks to my Alabama grandfather, we were pretty much the only Montreal family eating black-eyed peas at New Year's. For years I thought it was an eccentricity of our own; I had no idea anyone else did it.
posted by tangerine at 3:40 PM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

The first year I had Hoppin' John on New Year's Day for luck was the year 2000. That very day, I slipped in the driveway of the friends who served it to me and injured my back, and was in pain for several months. Other events that year: I got fired. My husband left me for his co-worker, although he said it was because I was a horrible person and continued to deny he was involved with the co-worker until he married her. My mother died. I got fired again. I briefly reconciled with my (now ex) husband and he left me again. I didn't find this out until years later, but the money I gave my then-separated-from husband for my half of the taxes we owed, he kept for himself and never filed the tax return I prepared. And the friends who served me the Hoppin' John? Sided with my ex in the breakup and stopped talking to me. Ancedata, whatever, I'm never eating any more goddamn Hoppin' John, whatever the day.
posted by Shoeburyness at 4:06 PM on December 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

Here's my recipe for hoppin' john, not crock-pot, but pretty easy:
1 cup dried black-eyed peas
1 pound sausage
1 vidalia onion, chopped
1.5 cups dry white rice
0.5 teaspoon ground black pepper
0.5 teaspoon powdered cayenne or chipotle
0.5 teaspoon cumin
0.5 teaspoon thyme, rosemary, or sage
0.5 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf

Soak washed peas in cold water overnight.

Brown the sausage over medium-high heat. Set aside and reserve the liquids. Cook onion in the sausage liquids for 6-8 minutes over medium heat, until the onion turns translucent. Add powdered spices while the onion cooks.

Add 6 cups water and bay leaf and sausage and bring to a boil. Boil 10 minutes and add peas. Keep at a low boil for 25 minutes, uncovered, until peas are almost tender. Add rice and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

Stop cooking. Remove from heat, keeping the lid on, for 5 minutes. Toss with fork and serve hot.
I tweak it pretty regularly -- in the past, I've boiled shrimp shells for seafood stock to flavor some of the six cups of water, and I'll do that again this year; unfortunately, this year's fish peppers from the garden are long gone, or I'd throw some of them in as well. I do have some nice Spanish Bomba rice that was a gift from a friend, and that'll probably make its way in, as well.
posted by vitia at 4:08 PM on December 28, 2010

Yeah, before you try the 12 grapes in 12 bell tolls routine, make sure that there's a spotter around who's trained in the Heimlich maneuver. I bet choking deaths in Spain skyrocket about then.
posted by MrVisible at 4:09 PM on December 28, 2010

My grandmother's vasilopita is cursed. It seems that whoever gets the dime loses their job that year. Including me. I also dislike my southern mother's black eyed peas and never eat them.

I think I'll try out Chinese New Year this time.
posted by chinesefood at 5:34 PM on December 28, 2010

I am going to make traditional Japanese New Years food again - osechi (layer 1, layer 2 and the not so traditional layer 3) - not sure whether it's lucky or not but it's a nice tradition in that you don't spend the first day of the year toiling but relaxing.
posted by gomichild at 7:52 PM on December 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

My New Year's meal is usually egg rolls. Cabbage equaling money in the superstition's equation, I find a local place has the most amazing egg rolls, rife with cabbage. I am, however, still pretty poor, so I suspect I will abandon the tradition this year.
posted by Samizdata at 9:07 AM on December 29, 2010

Pork. Pork. Pork. Why yes, I do live with a Hungarian, why do you ask?

(Also, you need to run to all the doors in the house with handfuls of coins, open the doors and shake the coins when the clock strikes midnight).
posted by at 1:33 PM on December 29, 2010

This years osechi! Layer #1, Layer #2 & Layer #3.
posted by gomichild at 5:58 PM on January 3, 2011

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