Chow Town

Ring in the new year with lucky foods for 2014

Updated: 2014-01-01T20:54:51Z

By TYLER FOX

As the curtains close on the year of 2013, it is natural to look ahead at what is in store for each of us with the new year.

People take stock of what they liked or didn’t like about the previous year, and inevitably the resolutions for the coming months are made.

Around the world, people have foods and rituals to help mark this changing of the calendar that are meant to bring all manner of good fortunes for the new year. Whether you believe in superstitions or not, it can’t hurt to have a few dishes on the New Year’s table to give you delicious luck heading into 2014.

You can tell a lot about people by simply looking at what they are eating; glances at tradition rich New Year’s dishes around the globe are especially illuminating.

There are those practices that are universal like throwing salt over the shoulder in Italy that are thought to be good luck anytime, and yet others that seem to focus specifically on certain good tidings for the year ahead.

Most of these involve the usual large issues of life such as money, career, fertility and family, good health and overall positive progress in life.

The foods that correspond with each of these fortunes generally have a resemblance to their superstitious wishes in some way, like colors or shapes that are meant to portend good things on the horizon. Each country and region seems to have a food tradition that will surely do the trick of showering luck on the year ahead.

Here are a few hallmark lucky foods that are said to have superstitious sway over lady luck’s intentions for the coming year.

Money

Whether you have caviar tastes or a dollar menu budget, everybody wants more money. Of course, over the years, people have found ways to curry favor in the financial forecasts of the new year.

Many foods that are round are considered to be monetary good luck, most often attributed to the round shape symbolizing coins and prosperity. Perhaps the most well known of these are lucky legumes like lentils, which can be enjoyed in many delectable ways.

Cotechino and lentils is a pork and lentil dish often enjoyed on New Year’s Day. In the southern states, black-eyed peas are similarly feasted upon for their round shape and tasty flavor.

Color also plays a role in helping to boost financial prospects, as many foods that share a resemblance with money are eaten. Green is the color of money, and therefore green foods are said to be harbingers of good fortune. Greens like kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, lettuce, collards and others work double purpose as good luck for money and good tools in any healthy eating resolutions you may intend on making.

Though many people’s resolutions don’t last much longer than a carton of milk, greens are a great way to eat healthy and maybe even lucky, so pick up a lottery ticket with that beautiful bunch of kale.

Health and Fertility

In addition to money, everyone can use a bit of luck with his or her health. Around the world, there are many foods that symbolize good health or are said to improve your overall well being.

Fish are a food item that is healthy to eat as well as being a symbol of health and in the future.

In Asia, the noodle has always been considered a symbol of good health and longevity of life with its length and dexterity.

Eggs, that perfect little package of life, are a symbol of health and wellness, so I’d say that’s a prime excuse to enjoy noodle and egg-centric dishes like a bowl of ramen with a soft cooked egg or a decadent plate of spaghetti carbonara. You can get to the treadmill part of your resolution the next day.

Fertility is another point of emphasis for people when the new year beckons, and small, round ingredients like pomegranate seeds, grapes or even eggs themselves can be seen as resulting in good luck with building families in the new year.

Progress

It is safe to say that everyone hopes to progress as they grow older. Maturity doesn’t have to mean becoming boring, merely that you are making progress in the grand scheme of life.

The foods that are said to symbolize progression are sometimes animals such as pigs or different fish, which are all seen as moving forwards.

Herring is a popular New Year’s dish in Europe for this reason, where the fish is seen as always swimming, always pointing forward and thereby an emblem of progress.

In America, you may find pickled fish on a stray plate or two, but you are much more likely to find the many joys of the pig representing progress, with that snout pointing onwards and bringing us.

New year or not, pork is a welcome symbol of happy eating.

And if it lends itself to good luck in the new year, then I say bring on the bacon!

Warm Lentil Salad with Brussels Sprouts, Kale, Bacon and Soft Cooked Egg

This lucky lentil salad dish hits on a number of different fortunate symbols that also have the benefit of being ridiculously delicious. Lentils and two different greens bring healthy, hearty, vegetal good luck colors and round shapes with money, while bacon and a beautiful egg serve to usher in a new year of prosperous progress. Healthy eating can still be decadent, though moderation is the guiding principle when enjoying the rich pleasures of pork like bacon.

Makes four servings

1 cup of Puy lentils

1 head of kale, stems removed and sliced

1 cup Brussels sprouts, individual leaves removed

2 tablespoons of basic vinaigrette or 1 tablespoon olive oil and a splash of sherry vinegar

4 eggs, soft cooked or hard boiled

1/2 pound of thick cut bacon, cooked and cut in small segments or lardons

Salt and Pepper to taste

Bring lentils and 5 cups of water to a boil, then simmer for 25-30 minutes, or until tender but still holding their shape. Drain. Toss the lentils with the kale and Brussels sprout leaves and the vinaigrette.

For a hard boiled egg, use your favorite method. To soft cook the egg, bring water in a pot to a rolling boil and then add each egg very gently. Cook eggs for 5 minutes, then remove and shock in a bowl of ice water to stop cooking, then peel.

To plate, assemble the lentil salad in center of the plate, then top with lardons or large pieces of crispy bacon to create a meat cradle for the soft egg to sit on. Give each person a knife with which to cut open the beautifully soft egg at the table, and make what I like to call an “egg toast” to good fortunes in the new year.

Tyler Fox, personal chef/event caterer who emphasizes ‘nose-to-tail’ cooking philosophy as well as vegan and local/farm to table foods.

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