It may not be the greatest idea to throw a dinner party the day after I return from a long trip, but it wouldn’t be the New Year if I didn’t ring it in with a full belly and a circle of friends. I’ve written elsewhere about the foods I like to cook for the New Year and why, but what is a tradition if you don’t repeat it?
The Black Eyed Peas, “I Gotta Feeling”
Peas, beans, and lentils are all considered lucky foods in different regions; some say they represent coins or plenitude. Black-eyed peas are the legume of choice in Southern New Years meals, although they can also be traced back to ancient Jewish customs. We ate them in my house growing up, perhaps because my southern dad did when he was a kid; my northern mom said we ate them because they are looking toward the future.
As you might imagine, it is pretty difficult to locate a song about black eyed peas; any that exist are out numbered by songs by The Black Eyed Peas, who took their name from the beans’ association with soul food. And besides, what song says New Year’s Eve party better than this one?
Fantasia, “Collards and Cornbread”
Like beans and lentils, greens and cornbread are often thought to symbolize financial fortune: the green folds of collards could represent paper money, while the rich buttery color of cornbread alludes to gold. Also like black eyed peas, these foods have year-round associations with southern American soul food, which explains the role they play in this slow, crooning song. The verses describe a tempestuous on-and-off relationship, but the recurrence of these comforting foods in the chorus suggests why she keeps coming back to it.
Diana Krall, “Peel Me a Grape”
Eating twelve grapes–one for each stroke of the clock at midnight and each month of the year–is a Spanish tradition to ensure sweetness to come. This torchy song, with its exhortations to provide comfort and luxury and fine things, fits in well with that theme.
Oasis, “Champagne Supernova”
Because champagne has such enduring connotations of luxury and celebration, there is no shortage of examples of sparkling wine in song. But I choose this throwback to my teenage years in part because the new year is a time to reflect on the past as well as the present. . . . And also because of what songwriter Noel Gallagher had to say about the song’s meaning, which stands in well enough for my feelings about holiday traditions in general:
“I don’t fucking know. But are you telling me, when you’ve got 60,000 people singing it, they don’t know what it means? It means something different to every one of them.”
Nancy Wilson, “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?”
Not food-related, just a swingy little number to close out the list. Happy New Year, everyone; have a safe and beautiful year’s end.