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Why Eating Cabbage Rolls is Lucky on New Year’s

Photo by Kankana Saxena

In many parts of Eastern Europe, eating cabbage rolls for New Year’s is considered very lucky. Laura Kelley, author of The Silk Road Gourmet (iUniverse, 2009), says: “My mother said that cabbage rolls were considered lucky because the leaves looked like paper money. The New Year’s connection was to roll ingredients that symbolized different things — chestnuts and walnuts look like brains, so they signify intelligence; tomato is about health and transformation, etc. — into the leaves to bring these things to the family who ate them in the new year.”

According to Rabbi Issamar Ginzberg, the cabbage rolls, with cabbage on the outside and meat on the inside, are as a home should be: “Inside should be nice and comfy, but the outside? Don’t make the neighbors envious!” He says that in keeping with Hasidic Jewish tradition, the rolls are eaten on Jewish holidays like Rosh Hashana and Simchat Torah.

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We’re Up All Night Sorting Through Black-Eyed Peas to Get Lucky

Photo by Kankana Saxena

There is an old saying in the American South: “Peas for pennies, greens for dollars and cornbread for gold.” True to the saying, hoppin’ John, prepared with black-eyed peas, is served with collard greens and cornbread for a triple dose of good luck on New Year’s Day in the American South.

Chef Teddi Wohlford, co-author of The Sweet Magnolias Cookbook (Harlequin, 2012), recalls eating black-eyed peas and crowder peas for prosperity and good luck. “Although black-eyed peas can be purchased in the canned food section or in the freezer section of almost every Southern grocery store, there is something special and time-honored about going through the black-eyed peas (or any other dried bean), sorting and removing any bits of debris, pebbles or small dirt clods,” she says. In her family, this process of going through the dried legumes was known as “looking the beans.” Once the looking was done, the dried beans were soaked overnight to speed up the cooking process.

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