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New Year’s Food for Good Luck

A pair of cornmeal dumplings on a bowl of stewed collards, plus a couple fried fish make a hearty meal that may bring good luck in the year ahead. As they cook, the dumplings will thicken the broth a little bit. Photo: Liz Biro

What’s the best food for New Year’s Day? The food that brings you good luck, of course.

Lucky foods for New Year’s might mean a fish fry to ensure long life or a big pot of collards guaranteeing plenty of cash. Fried oysters, grilled oysters or oyster stew could help in the, um, romance department – if you believe.

We dug through Coastal Review Online’s recipe files to find our favorite New Year’s lucky foods. The big bonus is they all go well together, which means you can guarantee yourself good fortune, prosperity, longevity and true love all in one meal.

Black-eyed peas

Some people believe black-eyed peas bring straight-up good luck. Others think they symbolize all the coins destined for your pocket in the coming year. Why? No one knows for sure. Black-eyed peas came to the New World on slave ships from Africa. After the Civil War, slaves were officially freed on Emancipation Day Jan. 1. Another theory pins the idea to good luck foods that Jewish communities served in the South. One of the most delicious recipes is Low Country hoppin’ john, a dish of black-eyed peas and rice seasoned with spices, onions and bacon, or other pork cuts like ham hocks, salt pork or fatback.

Get the recipe: Hoppin’ John

Collards

If you’ve lived in eastern North Carolina for any length of time, you know that you must eat collard greens on New Year’s Day if you plan to have plenty of money in the coming year. The vegetable’s color and thin leaves’ resemblance to greenbacks give the sense of banking cash, even if it is just in your belly.

Get the recipe: Classic Stewed Collards

Seafood

Fried seafood is a favorite on the N.C. coast. Photo: Wikipedia Commons

“Eat fish, live longer. Eat oysters, love longer” are words often seen on bumper stickers along the North Carolina coast. In parts of the world, fish with shiny scales are considered a lucky New Year’s food because the scales resemble silver. The Japanese eat shrimp to assure long life. In China, it’s whole fish for the same reason. Fish’s promised effects are not all legends. Doctors agree that omega 3 fatty acids in oily fins like mullet, mackerel and bluefish are good for you. Oysters? That’s still a matter of opinion. No scientific studies prove they kindle the urge, but it’s always lucky to get an invitation to a New Year’s Day oyster roast.

Get the recipe: Fish Fry

Get the recipe: Mable Smith’s Baked Flounder with Potatoes

Get the recipe: Charcoal Mullet

Get the recipe: Oyster Stew

Get the recipe: Crab-stuffed Shrimp

Cornbread

As the saying goes, “Peas for pennies, greens for dollars and cornbread for gold.” Whether you believe it or not, you’re truly blessed when this trio lands on the dinner table. Whether it’s baked in corn-shaped molds, steamed as dumplings atop a pot full of collards or fried in a cast iron skillet, cornbread is tasty and filling. Don’t forget hushpuppies with fish. That’s cornbread, too.

Get the recipes: Traditional Southern-style Cornbread, Deep-fried Cornbread and Jalapeno Cornbread

Get the recipe: Sanitary Restaurant Hush Puppies from Morehead City

About the Author

Liz Biro

Liz and her family came to North Carolina for the expansive beaches, friendly atmosphere and fresh seafood. Since arriving as a child, she’s never looked back at her native New Jersey. A journalist for 25 years, she's covered everything from local fisheries to politics. Liz left it all behind for a while to become a chef and run her own catering company. Today, she writes about food and dining for the Indianapolis Star and for Coastal Review.