New Year luck

Beans, Greens and Pasta (Photo provided — Yvona Fast)

The passing of one year and the birth of a new one is cause for revelry and reflection. The traditions that accompany this rite of passage depend on our culture, ethnicity, religion and economic stature. How we choose to celebrate and commemorate is very individual.

Whether you participate in First Night festivities or spend the evening at home with friends watching the ball drop on TV, food is part of the festivities.

Food is part of the holiday tradition as well. Many special foods are thought to bring good fortune for the upcoming year.

In the Philippines, it’s important to have food on the table at midnight; this symbolizes the assurance of an abundance of provisions in the year to come. In other nations, specific foods are eaten for good luck. Greeks bake pastry with a coin in it; whoever finds the coin will have the most luck. Italians eat pork sausage with lentils; the fatty sausage is a symbol of abundance, and the coin-shaped lentils represent money. In Germany and Poland, eating herring at midnight is said to bring good fortune for the coming year. The Danes eat boiled cod. The Dutch eat Olle Bollen, a type of doughnut, for a sweet New Year. In Spain, it is customary to eat twelve grapes, one each time the clock strikes the twelve strokes of midnight in hopes of a lucky twelve months ahead.

Although I haven’t heard of any special traditions in northern New York or New England, there are lucky New Year’s traditions in the American South. A traditional Southern New Year’s meal includes black-eyed peas and collard greens.

They say this tradition dates to the Civil War. According to legend, the town of Vicksburg ran out of food while under attack. Storehouses of black-eyed peas helped them survive.

In commemoration, many eat peas at the stroke of midnight. Some people will eat 365 peas – one for each day in the coming year.

Black-eyed peas are consumed because they look like small coins and swell when cooked; collard greens resemble greenbacks. For the holiday festivities, a coin may be buried among the peas before serving. In some states, like Louisiana and Mississippi, eating cornbread is also said to bring wealth.

This year, bring some good luck with this southern dish of peas, greens, and cornbread. And of course, don’t forget everyone’s favorite good luck beverage: Champagne.

Sweet Pepper Corn Muffins


1 cup stone ground cornmeal

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon sugar

1/3 cup whole wheat flour

2/3 cup all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 Tablespoon butter

1/4 cup finely diced onion

1/2 cup finely diced green pepper

1/2 cup finely diced red pepper

1/4 cup corn kernels

1 egg

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup finely diced green pepper

1/2 cup finely diced red pepper

1/4 cup corn kernels


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare 9-inch-by-9-inch pan or muffin tins.

In bowl, combine cornmeal, salt, sugar, flours, and baking soda. Set aside.

Melt butter in skillet; add onions and cook, over medium heat, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add diced peppers and corn, and set aside.

In another bowl, beat the egg; beat in buttermilk and add to the cornmeal mixture. Stir in the vegetables.

Divide evenly among twelve muffin cups. Bake about 20 minutes, until brown on top and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Serve warm, with fresh butter.

North Country

black-eyed peas

and greens

Southern style black-eyed peas or hopping john requires ham hocks and long cooking. Here’s a quick dish using the peas and greens. Collard greens are traditional, but this can also be made with kale, chard or spinach.


2 large or 3 small onions

2 Tablespoons cooking oil

4 cups washed, torn greens

1/2 cup broth or water

2 cups diced cooked ham

2 tomatoes, or one can diced tomatoes

3/4 cup black eyed peas

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon vinegar


Prepare greens. Discard damaged or yellow parts of leaves. Cut away the tough ends from each leaf. Wash thoroughly, then chop coarsely. Set aside.

Prepare peas. If using dry peas, soak overnight; drain; add water, bring to a boil and cook about 30 minutes, or until soft. Alternately, use a can of black eyed peas and just add at the end.

Peel and dice the onions. In large skillet over medium heat, cook onions in oil about 5 – 7 minutes. Add greens, and cook 2-3 minutes, stirring in the oil. Add broth, cover, and continue cooking about 20 minutes for collards or kale, or ten minutes for chard. Add tomatoes or one small can diced tomatoes, with juice, and cook another ten minutes. Stir in cooked or canned peas, paprika, and vinegar; heat through. Serve over rice or other grain, with sweet pepper corn muffins on the side.

Beans, Greens

and Pasta

Beans and pasta combine in this traditional Italian dish.


1 Tablespoon oil

1 cup chopped onion (1 medium)

4 ounces sliced mushrooms

1 carrot

1 stalk celery

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 or 2 cloves garlic

10 ounces greens

1 cup cooked white beans like canelini, navy or lima

1 cup cooked darker beans, such as black-eyed peas or black beans

1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained

Herbs – a pinch of sage, thyme, rosemary, oregano and / or basil

1 -2 cups diced ham, optional

4 ounces pasta

Parmesan cheese (for serving)


Cook pasta according to package directions; set aside.

Heat oil in large skillet; add onion, mushrooms, carrots and celery and saute about seven to eight minutes. Add garlic and greens, a little broth or water to moisten, cover, and cook until tender.

Add cooked or canned beans, tomatoes, ham (if using), cooked and drained pasta, and sprinkle with herbs. Cook until heated through. Serve sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.

Serves three.

Author of the award-winning cookbook Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market, Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be reached at, or on Facebook as Author Yvona Fast.