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Every Tuesday at 7:42 a.m. and 5:18 p.m., Tom Harte shares a few thoughts on food and shares recipes. A founder of “My Daddy’s Cheesecake,” a bakery/café in Cape Girardeau, a food columnist for The Southeast Missourian, and a cookbook author, he also blends his passion for food with his passion for classical music in his daily program, The Caffe Concerto.

A Harte Appetite: Good Luck for New Years

flickr user William Cho (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode)
Marina Bay in Singapore

Every culture feeds on the belief that eating certain dishes on New Years Day brings good fortune. Perhaps the Chinese have the most New Years food rituals. They take two weeks to ring in the new year and during that time literally everything eaten is considered auspicious.

Having first domesticated the pig the Chinese consider pork to be a lucky food but they are hardly alone in that. The pig is a symbol of good fortune around the world. Perhaps because a family who owns one is guaranteed to eat well.

Moreover some argue that the pig signifies moving forward into the new year because it always roots ahead with its snout to the ground. You might keep that in mind if you're planning to splurge on Lobster for New Year's Eve this year...they typically move backward.

Thus in Austria the new year begins with roast sucking pig served at a table decorated with piglets decorated out of marsipanne or chocolate. In Germany pork and sauerkraut is the order of the day. And bakeries offer pig-shaped breads for the new year. In Italy they celebrate New Years with pork sausage. 

My favorite new years traditions involve cake. Perhaps the most famous is Greek Vasilopita baked with a coin inside. Assuming he or she doesn't break a tooth the person who gets the piece with the coin should have good luck the rest of the year.

For Germans pancakes are considered so lucky that they are the very first thing eaten in the new year the batter ladeled into the skillet as the clock strikes midnight. In Ireland a fruitcake called barmbrack is served but alas only a few bites are eaten. The rest is thrown through the door to ward off famine from the house in the new year.

But in this country the black eyed pea is the luckiest food especially when cooked in a southern dish known as Hoppin' John. Given the nutritional benefits of black eyed peas Hoppin' John could well be lucky for your health. Perhaps just as importantly, it's also said to be a good hangover cure.

Tom Harte is a retired faculty member from Southeast Missouri State University where he was an award-winning teacher, a nationally recognized debate coach, and chair of the department of Speech Communication and Theatre.
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