For many, January 1 offers an opportunity to forget the past and make a clean start. But instead of leaving everything up to fate, why not enjoy a meal to increase your good fortune? There are a variety of foods that are believed to be lucky and to improve the odds that next year will be a great one. Traditions vary from culture to culture, but there are striking similarities in what’s consumed in different pockets of the world: The six major categories of auspicious foods are grapes, greens, fish, pork, legumes, and cakes. Whether you want to create a full menu of lucky foods or just supplement your meal, we have an assortment of recipes, guaranteed to make for a happy new year, or at the very least a happy belly.
Legumes including beans, peas, and lentils are also symbolic of money. Their small, seedlike appearance resembles coins that swell when cooked so they are consumed with financial rewards in mind. In Italy, it’s customary to eat cotechino con lenticchie or sausages and green lentils, just after midnight—a particularly propitious meal because pork has its own lucky associations. Germans also partner legumes and pork, usually lentil or split pea soup with sausage. In Brazil, the first meal of the New Year is usually lentil soup or lentils and rice, and in Japan, the osechi-ryori, a group of symbolic dishes eaten during the first three days of the new year, includes sweet black beans called kuro-mame.In the Southern United States, it’s traditional to eat black-eyed peas or cowpeas in a dish called hoppin’ john. There are even those who believe in eating one pea for every day in the new year. This all traces back to the legend that during the Civil War, the town of Vicksburg, Mississippi, ran out of food while under attack. The residents fortunately discovered black-eyed peas and the legume was thereafter considered lucky.
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 slice of thickly cut Pancetta, cubed (our twist)
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 (14 1/2 ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 1 pound of lentils
- 11 cups of low-sodium chicken broth
- 4-6 fresh sprigs of thyme
- 2/3 cup dry elbow pasta
- 1 cup shredded Parmesan
- Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the Pancetta and cook until all the fat has rendered and the Pancetta is crispy. Add the onions, carrot, and celery. Add the garlic, salt, and pepper and sauté until all the vegetables are tender, about 5-8 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juices. Simmer until the juices evaporate a little and the tomatoes break down, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Add the lentil and mix to coat. Add the broth and stir. Add the thyme sprigs. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and simmer over low heat until the lentils are almost tender, about 30 minutes.
- Stir in the pasta. Simmer until the pasta is tender, but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Sprinkle with Parmesan to serve.