The Good Luck List

It’s almost over, but not quite. It’s New Year’s Day and some important decisions need to be made and acted on–today–and not one day later…and just when I thought the pressure was off.

It’s about food, and apparently what we eat today is going to affect the whole rest of the year in ways that Jenny Craig can’t begin to imagine. Can’t get any more pressure filled than that.

Being a recent transplant to northern California from the Deep South, I had been indoctrinated with the Southern belief that eating black-eyed peas and collard greens on New Year’s day was essential not only to a year of good luck and prosperity, but also one’s mere survival.

The first year, I bought the belief (never having heard of it in the Northeast where I had been up until then), and ate the stuff, but noticing no major improvement in my luck, and not finding the dining experience particularly pleasant, I pretty much abandoned the practice for the rest of my long Southern sojourn. Maybe that’s where I made a mistake. Well, too late now.

So, now that I’m in this other galaxy of northern California, I thought I’d better check up and see what it is that I should eat today that will guarantee the bringing on of everything I’ve ever hoped for in this new year.

First stop, Google. In case you weren’t aware (but who isn’t?), Google can tell you everything you ever wanted to know and more, about everything under the sun.

Sure enough, Google pulled up pages of possibilities for good luck New Year’s foods, although none of them specifically for northern California. That means I’d better shop around and pick from the plethora of choices from other places, and eat what I like that is also on the Good Luck List.

Something almost every site I checked mentioned was the Spanish tradition of eating 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve…oops!…I missed that one, so better eat up even more today to make up for that regrettable omission of last night.

There do seem to be some conflicting opinions, however…choosing may not be as easy as I’d hoped.

Lots of places dictate eating fish–the English say mackerel, the Germans and Polish say herring (and I bet the Swedish do too), the Danish say cod–boiled, the Vietnamese say carp. None of those are favorites of mine, but pickled herring can be good.

But wait, not so fast…others think that eating fish is a sure sign that your money will swim away, so forget that…and also, in case you’re drawn to lobster, you should perhaps reconsider. Some consider lobster bad luck because lobsters move backwards–something we are loathe to imagine in our American ways, but I’ll bet you anything millions of Americans are negatively sealing their fate as I type. I’ll pass on all fish and seafood, just for today, just in case.

The Chinese go for noodles, dumplings, and spring rolls…maybe a spring roll or two should go on my menu.

Cabbage shows up a lot—Texas, Germany (in the form of sauerkraut), and northern Europe, but cabbage, especially when it’s cooked, is way too much like those collard greens that I could never warm up to. Next…

Now here are a couple of weird ones. My sources say that in Holland people eat doughnuts on New Year’s Day. Doughnuts? In Holland? Sounded fishy to me. Further investigation revealed that is an Americanism for what they really call “olie bollen”—literally, “oil balls.” There, doesn’t that sound appealing? No thanks for me.

My Google sources also say the French eat a stack of pancakes on New Year’s. I wonder who came up with this. I lived in France for five years and never did I see a French person consume a single pancake, leave alone a stack, on any day, New Year’s or other, ever. Could be a problem of translation as ‘pancakes’ as we know them don’t even exist in France. Crepes, yes, pancakes, no–and there is a world of difference. I’ll let that one go by too.

Pork seems to be potent as a good luck charm in Italy, Mexico, and the American South, and in the form of marzipan pigs in Germany…must be something less carnivorous for me to choose, although the marzipan does help with that.

Lots of places go for cake–Greece, Cambodia (rice cakes there), Italy for almond cake, France for “King’s Cake”—although that can be, and is eaten practically every day for the whole month of January, so no worries if you miss it today.

What you do have to worry about, though, are those porcelain and/or metal charms that are imbedded in those cakes in Greece and France. Finding one of those in your piece of cake is the good luck part–but biting into one of them is the flip side of good, in the extreme. Considering that, I’ll take the Italian almond cake and keep my teeth intact.

As a matter of fact, I could do an all-Italian menu, minus the pork, and add a Chinese spring roll or two and be quite happy. The Italians also go for lentils and risotto…those work, so there–a menu, bizarre sounding as it is, emerges.

Spring rolls, lentils–maybe in a soup, risotto, and almond cake, but I do need greens of some sort, if not for luck just for the color. What I really want is a salad, but those are not on any Good Luck List that I can find. Maybe I’ll just eat one anyway.

With ingesting all those other good luck foods, I’m sure a simple salad can’t redirect all that good luck that will certainly be on a year-long march to my door. Maybe I’ll just throw in a cabbage leaf or two…you know, just to be sure.

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