Many cultures believe that eating certain foods on New Year's Day brings luck throughout the year. Lentils and other legumes, which look like coins and swell when cooked, are thought to bring financial prosperity. Greens like kale, collards and spinach also symbolize financial good fortune, because of their resemblance to paper money. Pork too, because of its high fat content and richness, is thought to bring prosperity.
I am superstitious. It drives my husband crazy when I grab his hat off the bed, or insist that he put the knife down before I will pick it up. He didn’t grow up with our grandmother, whose Catholic’s belief in the supernatural was not limited to the Holy Ghost. If someone spilled the salt at dinner a snowstorm of salt flew over left shoulders all up and down her long mahogany table.
Combine my inherently superstitious nature with the last 18 months, and it seemed only prudent to begin the New Year by making a lentil soup with the Christmas ham bone, carrots, celery, onions and kale. I found a jar of yellow lentils in the pantry and went to the store for the rest. I was unsure of the exact age of the lentils, though I knew they were Old. Just that morning I threw out a box of gelatin with an expiration date of June 1993. New England thrift also runs deep in this family. How stale can lentils get? You just cook the heck out of them, and they‘ll get soft. It’s not like they taste great anyway, so you aren’t sacrificing any flavor. I didn’t buy Fresh Lentils.
I washed the Old Lentils, added them to the pot with chicken broth, water, some celery and the ham bone. Simmered for about an hour, figuring an extra 15 minutes would compensate for their age, and went to add the carrots and onions. No going. The lentils were crunchy. More simmering. Add more broth. At 8PM we ate leftover ham and broccoli, so at least we got the pork and something green which could at least be said to resemble the color of money.
More simmering. More broth. After two and half hours I added the rest of the vegetables and simmered some more. Finally at 10 o’clock, after three and a half hours of simmering, I turned it off and went to bed.
This morning I pureed the paste and it assumed the texture of quicksand - individually identifiable grains of crunchy lentil suspended in a slurry of lentils, broth and vegetables. I was too disheartened to notice how it tasted.
So my question is – if you plan a special soup to usher in prosperity for the entire year ahead but you make it with old lentils because you are too thrifty/cheap to buy new ones, and the soup sucks, what does that portend for the year ahead? And is it better to eat it or does that further solidify a mode of penuriousness? Should I toss it and start over?
A clue: this morning the realtor called to say that the person who was going to come look at our house had decided not to.