Eating for Luck in the New Year

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By Deirdre Bourdet

New Year's is a time for renewed energy, and renewed hope for a brighter future...given a bit of luck. Small wonder then that most of the world sets the New Year's table with dishes designed to maximize their good fortune in the coming year. Lucky colors, lucky animals, and vegetables that look like money are all welcomed to the party. Here are some ideas to make 2010 the best year yet.

Coin Collecting.  Lentils, black-eyed peas, and other legumes are common ingredients for New Year's meals, due to their coin-like shape and the fact that they grow in size as they cook.  Obviously, eating such things means that you will amass an ever-enlarging stash of coins yourself.  I like the Italian tradition of making a big ole pot of lentil soup on New Year's Eve for consumption in the first week of the New Year, as this is also typically the time for offsetting the excesses of holiday season and recovering a bit of health for the (surely) lucrative year to come.

Swonderful Swine.  Pigs are lucky creatures in many cultures.  Not surprising given that their lives are like one long wine country vacation: gleeful and unapologetic feasting with only full-body mud baths scheduled between snacks.  Put a pork roast on the New Year's table, or slip some bacon into your side dish (or even dessert! I heart real bacon crumbles and peanuts over ice cream sundaes), and you too will live the good life this year.

Bringing the Green.  Another money-related harbinger of luck is the traditional pot of cooked greens, often combined with the legumes and pig for a triply fortuitous and delicious dish.  Chard, spinach, collards, mustard greens--any of these pack a nutritional wallop and not coincidentally look like the embarrassment of bills you will surely encounter within the year.

And the Red.  Many cultures consider red a lucky color. Chinese families typically hand out red envelopes filled with money at the new year, and rumor has it that the Spanish (and the Turks) slip on some new red undies just before the clock strikes twelve.  But red foods will also brighten the future...so consider adding some cranberry sauce, or red beets, or sundried tomato sauce to the table.

Fishing for Luck.  The Chinese consider fish to be lucky animals, and frequently serve them whole at Chinese New Year. I like to break out the wild Pacific salmon lox instead because it's also red, involves far less work, and is even more delicious with caviar, crème fraiche, and champagne--lucky foods from my native California gourmande culture.  Lobster also hits on all cylinders there, but may require some advance planning to afford... but start now with the beans and greens and you should be set for NYE 2011.

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