If we for a moment think of our lives as stories, each passing year represents a new chapter. The end of one is the beginning of the next, presenting an opportunity to try something in the new year, to do things better and be happier than the last time. Through all this change, there are a few constants, and food rules supreme among them.
Food can surprise us, comfort us and lift our mood, while giving us sustenance. Both an art and a science, it unravels knowledge, nutritional and culinary traditions, and bridges lifestyles, cultures and peoples across geographies perhaps like nothing else.
It also sets connotations to events in our lives and times. In the south of the United States, the first morning of the new year is traditionally heralded by the warming aroma of black-eyed peas (popularly known as `Hoppin John’), rice or soup.
In Spain, while awaiting the new year, it is customary to pop in a dozen grapes as the clock starts chiming 12 – one grape for each month. Both the customs are said to be followed in the hope of year-long good luck and prosperity.
And Italians are known to celebrate the day with a comforting lentil preparation, while keeping their fingers crossed for a stroke of good fortune through the year.
So, why not usher in the new year with something that is fun, novel and hearty: foods again! These four ideas can be tasty, healthy and nourishing.
Mandu: pouches of luck for new year
Miracles, it is believed, happen when snowflakes stick together. Similarly, the Koreans believe dumplings (popularly known as Mandu) help a family to stick together through the year. The family gets involved in making these ‘lucky pouches’ and gorges on them on the first full moon day of the new year.
Steam, deep fry or pan fry the juicy, sticky dumplings. Stuff them with minced meat and fresh vegetables, dip them in a sweet and spicy sauce of your choice and relish the wholesome repast.
Bonus: That was healthy carbohydrates for bodily energy, some proteins and fibre all in a few mouthfuls.
Baked fish: the swim through the odds
It is therapeutic to watch a school of fish swimming in blue waters. The forward-lapping fish teach us to swim relentlessly against the tide. The Chinese and Scandinavians believe in lapping and swimming for progress; and consuming a fish appetiser on New Year’s Day, they believe, brings them luck and success.
Baked or fried, carp or pickled herring – eating fish invokes a sense of abundance and prosperity. Place the aquatic beauty on a platter and coat it generously with butter, lemon juice, pepper and salt. Wrap it in a banana leaf to add an exotic flavour. Bake it or steam it and enjoy it warm.
Bonus: Check the box for omega 3 fats, aka heart and brain health.
Soba noodles: for a long tug at life in the new year
While some cultures fast for longevity, people in Singapore, Japan and China gorge on long noodles to live long. On a new year’s day, Japanese homes cook buckwheat noodles – popularly known as toshikoshi soba or year-crossing noodles. Pick the noodles up with chopsticks and eat them without breaking the strands, for fun and faith.
Toss in a tablespoon of olive oil, splash a spoonful of burnt garlic, soy sauce and vinegar, lots of chopped vegetables of your choice and mix in the long and flat rice noodles. Finally, sprinkle some salt and spring onions, and pull in the noodles. It is now healthy too.
Bonus: Healthy carbohydrates, proteins, vital minerals and Vitamin B1 can spell healthy heart, muscle, brain and glucose metabolism.
Pomegranate – the colour of prosperity for new year
Colour matters. The Chinese are known to gift children with red envelopes containing money. People in Turkey and a few other Mediterranean countries literally paint their town red by smashing pomegranates against front walls or thresholds at the stroke of midnight. The colour is for love, life, fertility and prosperity.
While smashing pomegranates may be a little extreme, combining a bit of this tradition and adding a slice of cheesecake to pomegranate molasses from the Mediterranean region will make for a delectable treat on New Year’s eve.
Whip cream cheese, sugar, flour and sour cream into a thick batter and spread it onto a crust made with cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter. Bake this mix and freeze it before you add a generous portion of red, juicy pomegranate molasses!
The tangy, creamy cheese with a hint of sugar and ladles of pomegranate sauce should perk up the incoming year.
Bonus: Reap the fruits of a bowl that is at once antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, heart-friendly and much more.
Bon appetit! Good luck, while you load up on health in 2023.
Nice article. I was not aware of New year traditional food. Thanks for bringing this up
Very interesting article containing lots of new information.
the pomegranate molasses and cheesecake sounds like a delicious combo
the idea of healthy food, yummy food and good luck food is interesting
Thanks for Great info
New year, new you, new FOOD! This article is all about starting the new year off with a focus on tasty, healthy eats. The writer does a fantastic job of highlighting the important role that food plays in our lives !!!
Yummy.. Kindly share the recipe also