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Looking for a lucky New Year? Try these food traditions

9:38 AM, Jan 1, 2014   |    comments
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USA TODAY - We all get another chance in the new year - clean slate, new resolutions. For a little extra push of luck there are culinary superstitions from cultures all over the world. Many have been incorporated into American New Year's celebrations, writes American Food Roots.com. So start the new year with a spoonful of luck. It can't hurt.

Legumes of any kind bring good luck because they resemble coins and, therefore, wealth. (You will see a theme here.) The classic is Hoppin' John, the customary New Year's Day dish of black-eyed peas and rice from the American South. Toss in some dark leafy greens - which look like paper money - for more financial insurance. A side of cornbread - the color of gold - can only up the bank account. Italians eat lentils and sausage to bring in the new year. The lentils play the same role as black-eyed peas and the sausanges, sliced crosswise, resemble coins. The pork - specifically the fat - signifies abundance.

Pigs are a sign of good luck in many cultures. They root forward, the direction you want to go in the new year. (Avoid turkey and chicken. These birds scratch backward, definitely the wrong direction for a fresh start.) If you don't want to serve pork, the good-luck front can be covered with pig-shaped cookies or the little marzipan pigs often found on German and Austrian New Year tables. They've all made it to America.

Whole fish are an Asian good-luck food. Whole. Head and tail included. That ensures good luck from the beginning of the year to the end. Fish are loaded with luck. Their scales look like coins. (Scandinavians eat herring for the silver skin.) Fish swim forward, indicating progress.

Long noodles are another Asian contribution. They represent long life. A stir-fry is pretty gentle and may be the best way to go. It's bad luck to break or cut the noodles, so handle with care.

The twelve grapes of luck is a Spanish tradition that has been picked up by other countries with cultural connections to Spain as well as by Latino communities in the U.S. The practice is to eat one grape with each stroke of the clock at midnight. This is actually pretty hard to do, but worth it for the promised 12 months of luck. Warning: a bad grape could mean a sour month.

Pomegranates may ensure the propagation of the species. All those seeds? Fertility. Abundance. Their deep red color also signifies life (the heart) and health. Sprinkle liberally on a salad.

Round is the shape you want for the new year. Unity, continuity, the year coming full circle. Anything round will do - bagels, doughnuts, oranges, cakes.

Sweets can bring good luck, especially if they're ring-shaped or round. New Year's cakes often are baked with a coin inside. If you get the coin, extra good luck. Greeks eat vasilopita, a bread-like cake with a coin inside, to bless the house and bring good luck. The Dutch brought with themoliebollen (translation: oil balls) - good luck doughnuts studded with currants.

(Copyright © 2013 USA TODAY)

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