(…and the mochi, cornbread, and maybe some lentil soup)
By: Rachelle Hicks
It’s New Year’s Eve and you may be reeling over the good and the bad of 2011: all those surprises that made your year, as well as those moments that don't bring joy (…perhaps due to a broken resolution?). With all of the ups and downs, you’ve probably considered a resolution for 2012. But, really, what more should be expected from the New Year besides it simply being a good one?
Let’s take a look at some foods from around the world that different cultures eat to welcome a good New Year and how each is considered to bring good luck and fortune. And since all these dishes can be found here in Atlanta, you could even venture to make a marathon feast of it by trying them all! Imagine how lucky that could make your 2012.
The South: Black Eyed Peas, Kale and Cornbread.
Getting you to eat your veggies wasn’t grandpa’s only motivation on New Year’s Day. As he sets down a plate of folded, steamy kale, slippery black eyed peas, and a golden square of cornbread, he might just be your good luck charm in the New Year. Cornbread and steamed kale are considered lucky because they resemble gold and folded dollar bills, while the significance of black eyed peas dates back to the Civil War when Sherman overlooked a few black eyed pea crops during his havoc-wreaking march. This lucky bean was then considered heaven-sent by surviving Confederates as it became their main source of food. These three lucky Southern comforts can be found at Mary Mac’s Tea Room.
Mary Mac’s Tea Room
224 Ponce de Leon Avenue
Holland: Olie Bollen.
These lovely buttered puff pastries have been eaten during "yule" (December 26-January 6) since the period of ancient Germanic tribes in Holland. The tradition began as a way to guard against the Germanic goddess Perchta who would cut the bellies of those who did not offer enough food to her for the New Year. Bellies stuffed with Olie Bollen would not allow her sword to penetrate the stomach, leaving the tribesman unharmed. Today Olie Bollen are still loved for their buttery goodness, but have been made even more divine with a dusting of powdered sugar. A boxed mix can be found at IKEA.
441 16th Street NW
Mexico, Spain and Cuba: 12 Grapes.
At the stroke of midnight, it is considered good luck to eat a grape for each chime of the clock. Grapes must be green and the taste of each determines how the according month will go. For instance, if grape number 4 is sour, April of the following year may be difficult; if grape number 7 is sweet, then July of the following year will be good. And thanks to standard clock chime time (say that 3 times really fast!), which is 3 seconds between each chime, you don’t have to worry about stuffing 12 grapes within 12 seconds. This tradition originated during the Spanish region of Alicante’s 1909 grape surplus when farmers convinced their buyers that it was good luck to eat grapes during the midnight chimes in order to sell the overstock. Grapes can be found at most all supermarkets, but an organic bunch at Dekalb Farmers Market is quite delicious.
Dekalb Farmers Market
3000 East Ponce De Leon Avenue
Germany: Pork or Pig-shaped Marzipan.
Since the time of ancient Germanic tribesmen, the Teutons, pigs and boars have been a symbol of agricultural abundance and luck. According to Teutonic myth, the boar taught early Germanic people how to produce food through agriculture by demonstrating the “plow” mechanism with his tusks. During today’s New Year’s celebrations, Germans will feast on juicy pork bratwurst, or eat marzipan candies shaped like pigs. Savory bratwurst meals can be had at midtown’s Der Biergaten and sweet marzipan piglets can be found at Buckhead’s World Market.
300 Marietta Street NW
Atlanta, GA 30313
Cost Plus World Market
3330 Piedmont Rd NE #17
Italy: Lentil Soup.
You know what they say about lentils… Well, not much, except that they’re good for you and Italians eat them for good luck on New Year's Day. In Italy, lentils are known to bring good fortune to those who eat them New Year’s Eve. The disk-like shape of a lentil is said to resemble a coin, so eating a bowl of lentils is like eating hundreds of small, mushy doubloons. These little medallions are most commonly prepared to eat in lentil soup. To find one of these lucky stews in Atlanta, visit Gilbert’s Mediterranean Café for their Brothers’ Mother’s Lentil Soup.
Gilbert’s Mediterranean Cafe
219 10th Street
This traditional Japanese treat is a type of rice cake that is pounded to a moldable paste and made into a variety of treats and edible decorations. Traditionally families will gather to make mochi during an end of the year ceremony called Mochitsuki. The mochi is then used for making confectionary, ornamental cake, soup, and ice cream. The practice of making decorative mochi stems from Shinto traditions which regard rice, mochi’s main ingredient, as a strength-giving food. When eating mochi, a knife is never used because of the superstition that it would sever family ties. At Trader Joe’s you can find mochi-covered ice cream balls in strawberry, chocolate, mango and green tea flavors.
Trader Joe’s Midtown
931 Monroe Drive NE
Flavors NOW wishes you a fortunate and happy New Year!