Of course, we all know there is no credibility to eating certain things on New Years to guarantee a year of luck and fortune. But who cares. I’ve done it for as long as I can remember, and I’m still here. Afraid not to.
For some reason, black eyed peas have always been on the New Years menu for luck, and cabbage insures you will have enough money. My friend, Jack, remembers his father carrying around a pocket full of cabbage in the New Year to hand out to friends.
As Southerners we take it a bit farther and cook collards, kale and chard at New Year’s, believing them to be a sign of folding money. The more one consumes, the larger the fortune of the coming year. And a pone of cornbread helps too.
Spain offers a most unusual New Year’s food rite. They eat one grape per hour up to midnight, 12 in all. The notion also is popular in South America.
Each grape apparently represents a month. If the grape is sweet, good luck is coming; if sour, watch out. In Peru, they eat 13 grapes. Nobody knows why, except for extra luck.
Asians celebrate the first meal of the year with noodles. There’s a catch. If you bite the noodle before it’s all in your mouth, take out a life-insurance policy.
Nigerians appreciate goat meat on rice with palm wine. In Texas, they consume dried peas and pork chops. During the Civil War, that’s what most folks ate.
Then we have the foods to avoid. Eating lobster in the first meal of the new year is bad luck in Austria. That’s because they swim backward. How that impacts luck is not understood. They just do it.
For extra insurance, I’m going to add grapes, noodles – hold the goat and lobster.
Here’s a fabulous cabbage recipe devised by my friend Tom White in Madison. He always made it for New Years when we lived there. I didn’t even care for cabbage in those days and I couldn’t get enough.
Tom’s New Years Cabbage Casserole
1 medium head cabbage cut up and cooked until tender
Salt to taste
1/2 stick butter
1 heaping tablespoon flour
1 cup milk
1 cup mozzarella cheese
Cook the cabbage in water and drain. Mix the butter and flour over medium heat then whisk in milk to make a light cream sauce. Add grated cheese and cabbage – pour into casserole and bake at 400 degrees until bubbly. You can also add a bit of chopped ham if you have any left over from Christmas.