- Author: Michelle Davis
What do you do that brings you luck in the New Year? Many countries or regions of countries have specific customs for this annual event. The most common involve food especially grains, legumes, and other fruits and vegetables. In Japan, it is traditional to eat unbroken buckwheat (soba) noodles. That means they have to be slurped up in their entirety for longevity and stamina. Cutting the noodles could be shortening your life! Round fruits such as oranges resemble coins and are said to bring wealth to the Filipino tradition. In Italy, lentils are also considered to resemble coins and wealth. In other Mediterranean countries, the pomegranate symbolizes wealth and fertility. Mexican tamales are given as a present and symbolize wealth. The masa or cornmeal is gold-colored. Traditionally they are stuffed with pork which is thought to be good luck in that and many other cultures.
I was raised with the American South tradition of greens, black-eyed peas, ham, and cornbread. Greens (collard greens, spinach, cabbage, or kale) symbolize money. Cabbage also brings good luck. Black-eyed peas promote prosperity and good luck. Pork in any form contributes to prosperity. Golden cornbread symbolizes wealth. Some Southerners also add whole corn (gold nuggets) to their cornbread. My favorite way to meet this tradition is by making and eating “Hoppin' John”. It is a black-eyed pea salad that can be served hot or cold. I make it on New Year's Eve so the flavors can meld in the refrigerator and then serve it for dinner on New Year's Day.
Here's my recipe. It makes about 4 generous salad-size servings.
1 can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
5 or 6 green onions, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 bell pepper any color, chopped (red, orange & yellow are sweeter, but green is OK)
1 oz. (1/2 jar) diced pimentos
½ of baked ham sliced, diced, or cooked bacon bits or half of a small jar of bacon bits (I use ham.)
1 Tbs. sugar
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
1 ½ tsp. balsamic vinegar
Pinch of salt and a couple of twists of fresh ground black pepper
Julienned fresh baby spinach
Drain and rinse the black-eyed peas and put them in a sealable 4 cup container. Chop green onions, celery, and bell pepper approximately the same size and add to the container. Drain pimentos and add to the container together with diced ham or bacon bits. In a small jar with a lid, mix sugar, olive oil, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper. Cover with the jar lid and shake really well. Add this dressing to the black-eyed peas, vegetable, and ham/bacon mixture. Cover with container lid and shake well to distribute dressing to the entire salad. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or even better, overnight. Just before serving, add in julienned spinach and shake well or just serve the salad on top of the spinach. Red pepper flakes can be added to taste. Refrigerate any leftovers. Serve with cornbread.
This recipe only takes a few minutes to put together. It is certainly easier than the Spanish custom of eating one grape with each hour chime at midnight on New Year's for good luck. Let me know if you can swallow 12 grapes in the time it takes to toll the New Year. Don't choke and no cheating! Here's to better luck and health for all in 2021!