The Fortunate Flavor of New Year’s Lentils

In many Latin American countries, including Chile and Mexico, it is a tradition to eat lentil soup on New Year’s Day. Lentils are believed to bring good luck and prosperity in the coming year.

How did these legumes gain such coveted status on New Year’s Day?

Looks like the Italians are to thank.

The History of Lucky Lentils

Historians say the legumes have been held in high regard since the time of the Greeks and the Romans.

“Lentils were among the first foods to be cultivated by humans, making them highly valued in ancient Greek and Roman cultures,” NatureVia writes.

Lentils went on to represent good fortune fin one European country in particular.

“Over time, the custom arose of cooking lentils accompanied with some sausages, becoming very popular in Italy during the Middle Ages,” the Spanish-language outlet LopezDoriga Digital explains.

It’s believed that the Italian tradition spread to Spain, who, in turn, took it with them to Latin America, where some countries keep the gastronomic ritual alive today, in different forms.

Today, the versatile legumes are served stewed, braised, or simmered. The preparation of lentils becomes a celebration of flavors and a nod to the time-honored belief that a humble dish can usher in prosperity and good luck for the year ahead. 

In Chile, lentil soup is typically served with a side of pan amasado, a type of bread made with flour, salt, and lard. In Mexico, lentil soup is often accompanied by tamales and menudo, a soup made with tripe and hominy.

Not everyone makes hearty dishes with the lentils though.

While some countries opt for hearty lentil dishes, Colombia takes a unique approach. 

 In Colombia, the legumes, which resemble money thanks to their smooth round surface, signify abundance and prosperity in their uncooked state.

“In Colombia, at midnight, people start filling their pockets with lentils. Because they signify prosperity and abundance. And when pockets are full of lentils, it foreshadows money pouring out of your pockets,”  Colombian YouTube host Paola Jimenez explains.

There’s even a ritualistic twist too.

“Someone has to give you lentils like they’re giving you money,” Jimenez says, adding: “ … If you’re going to I’ve me lentils, give them to me with your right hand because that’s how you give money. I will receive them with my left hand. Because that’s how you receive money.”

Try Now: Kevin’s Lentil Soup Recipe

Lentils are associated with a holiday filled with new dreams and hopes for the new year. If you’re looking for a hearty and healthy lentil soup recipe, the following recipe is a great option.

Kevin Santiago’s Famous Lentil Soup Recipe

Ingredients:

1 pound dried lentils
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
7.9 ounce-package cubed chorizo (Palacios Iberico Chorizo)
Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

Rinse the lentils and remove any debris. Then soak the lentils, in room temperature water, for about 30 minutes.

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.

Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is translucent.

Add the carrots and celery and cook for 5 minutes.

Drain the lentils. Then add the lentils, cumin, oregano, bay leaf, broth, and chorizo.

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the lentils are tender.

Remove the bay leaf and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve hot with your favorite bread or crackers.

Cathy-Nuestro-Stories-Writer-Image-200x275

By Sofia Jones

When Sofia Jones is not interviewing Latinx stars for her iHeartRadio podcast, she can be found fostering (and cuddling with) cute small dogs for a South Florida animal rescue nonprofit.

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