Eat this, make lots of money in the New Year

italian lentils

All around the world there are about a gazillion traditions and symbolic rituals for ringing in the New Year. And most of them revolve around what you eat.

I grew up in a household of wandering nomads. My parents made their way to Alabama by way of Mexico when I was eight years old. While my mother is American by birth, her childhood was spent abroad with stints in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. My stepdad, an Italian raised in Libya, spent his budding adulthood hustling his way through Switzerland, parts of Africa and California. So our traditions (the few that we have) are borrowed from anywhere and anyone who would lend them to us.

But when it comes to food, my stepdad is the one who holds on to his native Italian superstitions and culinary traditions the most. As in, you don’t pass the knives or the salt. There’s no such thing as quinoa pasta. Did you just put seafood in risotto? Shame. (You get the picture.)

Therefore every year on New Year’s eve we would all sit down around our beautifully adorned dining room table (expertly decorated by my mother, of course) to eat heaping bowls of Italian lentils.

The recipe, like most of my stepdad’s Italian classics, is simple. Some lentils, a couple of garlic cloves and a splash of really good olive oil are all you need to bring out their earthy flavor. Like many of the foods that people eat around the New Year, lentils are symbolic of wealth, prosperity and forward motion — all good things you want for yourself and your family in the coming year. The more lentils you eat, the more money you’re guaranteed to make. So you’d better believe we ate our lentils.

I made a batch of these lentils this year for my family, which (for now) is constitutes me, my husband and our 1 1/2-year-old daughter. I spruced it up and added a little spice to bring a fresh new perspective — and a little zing — as we enter a new, hopeful year.

If you’d like to get in on some good luck juju, here’s the recipe for my New Year's lentils with spicy Italian sausage.