Traditional New Year foods are thought to bring luck. Many cultures believe that anything in the shape of a ring is good luck, because it symbolizes “coming full circle,” completing a year’s cycle. For that reason, the Dutch believe that eating donuts on New Year’s Day will bring good fortune.
Many parts of the U.S. celebrate the New Year by consuming black-eyed peas. These legumes are typically accompanied by either hog jowls or ham. Black-eyed peas and other legumes have been considered good luck in many cultures. The hog, and thus its meat, is considered lucky because it symbolizes prosperity. Cabbage is another “good luck” vegetable that is consumed on New Year’s Day by many. Cabbage leaves are also considered a sign of prosperity, being representative of paper currency. In some regions, rice is a lucky food that is eaten on New Year’s Day.
The Japanese celebrate Ohshogatsu, New Year’s, on January first. This day is one of the most important holidays for the Japanese and contains many customs. The first dish you are supposed to eat on the morning of New Year’s Day is a soup called ozoni. People make this soup different ways, depending on where in Japan their ancestors came from, but it usually contains vegetables, kamaboko (fish cake) and mochi (rice cake).
Another dish that is always served on this day is kuromame (black beans). The slightly sweet beans signify good health, and you are supposed to eat one bean for every year old you are, plus one for the coming year. Kazunoko (herring roe) is crunchy, salty, and prepared in a ginger and shoyu sauce. This dish symbolizes fertility.
We usually eat this Japanese breakfast every year, but this year I am making Hoppin’ John. I can use all the luck I can get!
1 Tbs olive oil
1 large ham hock
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
1 Tbs chopped garlic
1 lb black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and rinsed
1 qt chicken stock
1 tsp dry thyme leaves
Salt, black pepper, and cayenne
3 Tbs finely chopped green onion
3 cups steamed white rice
Heat oil in a large soup pot, add the ham hock and sear on all sides for 4 minutes. Add the onion, celery, green pepper, and garlic, cook for 4 minutes. Add the black-eyed peas, stock, bay leaves, thyme, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the peas are creamy and tender, stir occasionally. If the liquid evaporates, add more water or stock. Adjust seasonings, and garnish with green onions. Serve over rice.