New Year's food: Your year is what you eat

7:36 PM, Dec 30, 2011   |    comments
Serving greens and black-eyed peas. (AP)
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ATLANTA (WXIA) - Across the nation, as people prepare to celebrate the new year, for some, special meals are being prepared. What you eat on New Year's Day is supposed to signify "good things" to come over the course of the year.

Lentils and black-eyed peas are supposed to signify coins and, more particularly, money and wealth. Hoppin' John is a prepared dish of black-eyed peas and rice very common across the South that is a regular staple of New Year's dinner tables. Other dishes prepped with black-eyed peas include Texas Caviar, which is usually prepared with corn and bell peppers, though some recipes go as far as to include black beans and celery.

It's no surprise that leafy green vegetables signify money. In the South, greens -- collards or mustards & turnips, take your pick -- are usually the vegetable of choice, though in other parts of the nation, cabbage or sauerkraut tend to be more common.

Ham, roast pork or pork chops are popular choices for meat on New Year's since pigs dig forward with their snouts, which symbolizes prosperity. However, if you subscribe to that theory, stay away from chicken, which scratches backward, or lobster, which scuttles backward.

Fish is also thought highly of for New Year's as a symbol of forward progress, and of course, the scales of the fish also represent coins and wealth. Salmon and tuna, both high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, are good heart-healthy choices.

In Spanish-speaking nations, eating 12 grapes at midnight is a popular custom, with each grape signifying each month of the outgoing year. The sweetness or sourness of each grape represents the good months and bad months of the year that is past.

Round or donut-shaped cakes are popular in some nations, and of course, the beginning of the year is also the beginning of King Cake season leading up to Mardi Gras among those from the Gulf region.

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