When I was growing up, my dad insisted that on every New Year’s Day we eat sauerkraut and knockwurst. He’d cook a giant roasting pan full of it. Jumbo sausages, bursting with fat, surrounded by kraut, apples and onions and god knows what, and we had to dig in or else. He had this German saying, and I have no idea how to spell it, but it sounded like “Sauerkraut und shpeck macht dich gron fett.” We naively assumed that this meant that eating sauerkraut brings you good luck. When I finally asked him for a translation — sometime in my adulthood — he finally told me that it meant “Sauerkraut and pork makes you big and fat.” Yippee.
To keep you from eating knockwurst in vain, then, here’s a list of things you may want to try instead. One of them is sure to make you lucky without inducing double chins.
Black-eyed peas and greens are at the top of the list because, well, they actually taste good. The peas — or lentils, if you want a quicker-cooking substitute — are symbols for coins and greens stand in for dollars. So a big old bowl of cash? Yeah. Joe Tucker at Tucker’s Restaurant (1637 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine) assures me that he’ll be cooking up black-eyed peas and greens for the New Year. He’ll be serving on New Year’s Eve from 9 a.m.-2 p.m., and New Year’s Day from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Fish is another lucky dish for a similar reason — the silvery scales are an allusion to money.
The Chinese (their New Year starts Jan. 23) believe the fish must be served whole, including the head and tail, so that none of your luck is cut off. My suggestions for finding a great, complete fish dish are King Wok (203 W. McMillan St., Clifton Heights) or House of Sun (11959 Lebanon Road, Sharonville). They’ve got fish swimming on site for your selection. Not so lucky for them, I suppose.
Any grain dish symbolizes abundance in the New Year. If you decide not to go the Chinese rice route, how about one of my favorite restaurant discoveries of 2011 — La Badiya in Erlanger, Ky. Their bulgur salad is delicious and the jasmine rice topped with slivered almonds that accompanies their entrees is superb. They squeeze their own raw juices and make their own smoothies on site, which is a healthy way to recover from holiday excesses and start the year off right.
Maybe you’ve already got abundance, though, and you want longevity so that you’ve got enough time to spend it. Sounds like a good problem to have! But if your idea of luck is a long life, then long noodles are your New Year’s dish. You can get some great ones at Pho Lang Thang (114 W. Elder St., Findlay Market) on New Year’s Eve until 4 p.m., but they are closed on New Year’s Day. So is my other go-to noodle joint, LuLu’s Noodles (135 W. Kemper Road, Springdale). You may need to just have ramen at home. Just be sure to slurp — biting the noodles breaks the luck.
If you find yourself unable to get out or to boil water for ramen on New Year’s Day for any reason (see how non-judgmental we can be?), another lucky food that requires absolutely no prep work other than a thorough rinsing is a bunch of grapes. Bite them as gently as your headache allows.
Come to think of it, I wonder if swallowing multiple ibuprofens symbolizes abundance?
CONTACT ANNE MITCHELL: firstname.lastname@example.org