This year I started my New Year’s Eve festivities with a group of Spanish friends. So while you were lighting those first firecrackers, we were getting a head start on New Year’s Day traditions. At midnight we ate 12 grapes. You have to eat all the grapes before the last stroke of midnight. Each grape represents a month and we want every month to be good! If you get a sour grape, the corresponding month could be a bit rocky. Apparently this dates back to 1909 when there was a surplus of grapes. The grape growers had this idea and it has stuck, spreading to Portugal as well as former Spanish and Portuguese colonies such as Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Ecuador, and Peru.
I grew up in the south in the US. We always had dinner at my grandmother’s on January 1st. It was important to eat black-eyed peas (for luck), collard greens (for money). To be honest, I never touched the collards. They smelled horrible and I couldn’t bring myself to taste them. Maybe that explains why thus far in life, luck has outweighed money. I did eat my fair share of green in the form of those yummy yummy cucumbers my grandmother made. She’d slice them the day before and soak them overnight in vinegar and ice with spring onions and pepper. I wish I were eating them right now! Pleasure over treasure. Nothing changes.
I think we also had a pork roast. No one said anything about that being for luck, but many countries eat it as a symbol of progress. In Austria they even decorate the table with little marzipan pigs. It must be common in Germany too and would explain this.
I’ve read that the fatty nature of pork makes it the perfect symbol for wealth and prosperity in Italy and the States. Since there were more Italian settlers in the north, I guess their pork roast meant more than our pork roast, but I’m sure we all enjoyed it the same.
Now that I’m a vegetarian, it changes things a bit, but I’m definitely good on the what NOT to eat list; lobster because it moves backwards, chicken because it scratches backwards, other fowl because it could fly away.
For more interesting facts and recipes, click here. As for me, this year I think I’ll try to live a bit more according to Epicurus’ original philosophy that what we eat is not as important as who we eat it with. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to enjoy good food. Maybe 2016 is the year we all find guilt-free happiness by changing our attitudes to what we eat, who we eat it with, how it’s prepared and where it come from.