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Here’s to a ‘soup-er’ New Year

I watched the digital clock change its neon red numbers from 11:59 to 12, then quickly whisper-yelled “Happy New Year!” to Brian. We made it to midnight! The only problem was that my celebration was a little premature.

It was now only Dec. 29, not Jan. 1. Brian, Benson, and I had just gotten home from our Christmas trip, having driven exactly 1,000 miles since leaving Alabama that morning. But I had zero intention of watching the clock ring in 2023 on actual New Year’s Eve, so I figured I’d make the best of being awake at midnight.

But just because I’m much too boring to stay up waiting for the ball to drop doesn’t mean I don’t like celebrating the arrival of a new year. I just like doing it at sane hours of the day. Starting off the next year sleep-deprived does not seem like a good omen.

Or should I say, a good choice. I don’t actually believe in omens, or in the “good luck” that many New Year’s traditions are built around. Superstitions abound about how to bring good luck to the next calendar: where you should be, what you should be wearing, what you should do, what you should eat. Make sure to open the door at midnight to let out the old year and welcome in the new one; run around the block with your suitcase to ensure upcoming adventures; dine on long noodles so that your life is long, and so forth. You’re supposed to wear specific colors to represent different fortunes — for example, red for joy and ambition, yellow for hope and optimism, green for prosperity and new beginnings — but the list is so long that I’m sure you could wear any color and assume it is fortuitous.

Don’t, however, forget the long list of things you also shouldn’t do. Obviously, it’s bad luck to eat lobsters (they move backwards and will setback your year), cook chicken (your fortune could fly away), clean your house (don’t sweep away all that good luck), or cry (unless you want a year full of tears).

Yet even if I hit the luck-jackpot and kissed at midnight while eating 12 grapes, wearing black and gold, and balancing on my right foot, I’m fairly certain all the luck I’d get would be an anxiety headache from trying to do all the things.

My focus for the new year is built on my foundation in Christ, not on finagling all the superstitions for a chance at prosperity. What a relief.

That actually frees me up to really enjoy trying out some of the traditional foods associated with New Year’s luck. “Unfortunately,” we don’t have any pickled herring in the house, so that’s out for this year, but fortunately, my mother-in-law just gave me a leftover hambone. The tradition of pork being lucky purportedly comes from the Pennsylvania Dutch, which is in my heritage, and for me it’s doubly lucky since it was an unexpected gift. That made me want to cook ham and beans, which made me think of black-eyed peas, which are very traditional for New Year’s Day. Round foods are supposed to symbolize coins and prosperity for the new year, so I threw in some carrot “coins.” The herb sage reminds me of sage advice, and what we could use more than luck in 2023 is wisdom, so that went in too. Then it all went into the pressure cooker, which means lunch got ready with low input from me, which I call quite lucky.

So here’s to 2023. May it be full of good luck, good choices, and good food.

Lucky Ham and Black-Eyed Peas Soup

One bite of this soup on a dreary day, and you’ll be convinced it’s lucky simply because it tastes so good. Add in that it’s easy, cheap, and healthy, and lucky or not, it’s the right way to start off the New Year. I suppose it would have been more timely to write about this BEFORE 2023 began, but let’s be honest, the year is still brand new, and we can still keep welcoming it. This batch of soup makes enough for leftovers for our little family, which as you can guess, feels very lucky the next day.

Prep tips: swap in dry great northern, navy, or pinto beans if you don’t have any black-eyed peas; they’ll all add rich flavor, texture, and protein. You can make this on the stovetop if you don’t have an electric pressure cooker; you will just need to simmer the soup for a couple hours until the beans are tender.

½ pound dry black-eyed peas

2 tablespoons butter

1 large onion, diced

4 celery ribs, diced

1 pound carrots, sliced into thick coins

1 [14.5 ounce] can diced tomatoes

1 meaty hambone (or 1-2 pounds diced ham)

cracked peppercorns

6-10 fresh sage leaves

Brine the peas overnight with a teaspoon of salt and water to cover. Drain when ready to cook.

Heat butter in an electric pressure cooker, and saute onion and celery until tender. Add in carrots, tomatoes, drained peas, hambone, pepper, and sage. If your hambone came with broth, add that in now, or add water to cover everything (salt after cooking so you don’t get it too salty). Pressure cook on high for 22 minutes, releasing pressure after 10 minutes of resting. Cut ham off the bone and add back into soup; taste and season as desired