Chicago-style lucky New Year food

December 30, 2011

Black-eyed peas (beans, not band), collard greens, and cornbread—these seem to be the few lucky New Year's foods native to the U.S. But even they trace their culinary history back a long time ago, to places far, far away.

Like the South.

While Hoppin' John, cotechino with lentils, and mochi are eaten by Chicagoans whose families have lived here for generations, where are our New World regional lucky New Year's foods?

In Spain, on New Year's Eve at the stroke of midnight, they eat one grape for every strike of the clock in an old tradition—so they say. I question if it's a tradition that old.

On NPR's food blog The Salt, Kristofer Husted reports in a lovely post What The World Eats For A Better, Luckier 2012, "Legend has it that this '12 grapes in 12 seconds' custom stems from grape suppliers in the Alicante region who were bothered by a surplus of crop more than a century ago."

I don't know when they were harvesting those grapes 100 years ago, but I doubt it was in December. And while tastes and tolerances were different then, I'm guessing those grapes were far less sweet, seeded, with skins far more tannic.

But what about the Midwest? And specifically Chicago?

The most local grapes I could find were Holiday Seedless—from California. They're big, red, and sweet—actually really big. So big in fact that eating 12 in 12 seconds is like a competitive eating challenge.

So how about Garrett Popcorn Chicago Mix? Six cheese, six caramel, of course.

Or a dozen Jay's Original potato chips? Yes, they're now made in Indiana, but they've been Chicago's potato chip since 1927. And "you just can’t stop eating ‘em."

Please share your lucky New Year's foods in the comments below. Happy New Year to you and yours!