Tag Archives: luck

Hoppin’ John, collard greens, gluten-free cornbread, and the luck we make for ourselves

I’m back, and I hope you’re not all “New Year, New You”-ed out, because I’ve still got New Year’s on the brain. Don’t worry, I won’t talk about resolutions. I want to talk about luck.

December 31st is almost inevitably a day of regrets: most of us are proud of some accomplishments and pleased with how some things worked out, but less thrilled about others. It’s a lucky person indeed who can look back at an entire year with approval.

I, for example, am happy I started and kept up a blog, but I wish I’d written more fiction. I did some fun stuff, including in the celiac community, but I ought to have taken advantage of more of the cultural opportunities New York has to offer. I’m glad I got celiac figured out, but I probably should have made time to go to the dentist. You get the idea.

January 1st is a day to put behind us all the failures and disappointments of the previous year, and, perhaps, the previous night. New Year’s Eve is among the most hyped holidays of the year, but I find it’s usually a letdown.

Angostura bitters and Dominos sugar cubes

Not pictured: the bubbly, which is gone. By the way, if you like trivia, the reason the Angostura label is too big for the bottle is explained here.

This year, it started off well with “classic champagne cocktails” (sugar cubes, Angostura bitters, and lots of bubbly) at a friend’s home, but it ended at a “warehouse party” in Brooklyn that got shut down by the fire department at 11:37 (cruel), watching the ball drop on TV in a random bar, and leaving just past midnight to trek home on the train with only Butterfingers for consolation.

After that, I was more ready than ever for my customary New Year’s Day celebration. I’m honestly not a superstitious person, despite my love of astrology. But a few years ago, I discovered a list of foods considered lucky to eat on New Year’s Day in various cultures. Though I didn’t grow up eating lucky foods on New Year’s Day, I’m a “make new traditions but keep the old” kind of girl, so I decided to pick up the custom.

This year was, as Sprue Jr. dubbed it, “the third annual traditional down-home Southern New Year’s Day meal cooked by wannabe New Englanders,” consisting of:

  • Hoppin’ John, a black-eyed peas and rice dish, lucky because the beans’ swelling represents prosperity (less lucky because we made ours vegetarian and missed out on the extra luck benefits of pork or ham)
  • braised collard greens, made in the slow cooker with leeks and garlic, lucky because greens are…green…like money
  • cornbread, lucky because it’s gold, like money (sensing a trend?), and extra traditional because Southern-style cornbread includes little to no wheat flour, given its former scarcity in the region
  • grapes and pineapple for dessert, because we got lazy, and because grapes are eaten for luck at midnight in Spain. Plus, pineapple is gold, like cornbread, and money.

We were a bit unlucky with how long the rice took to cook (I still don’t understand why), and our grapes were a bit sour, which apparently is a bad sign. But the meal, though delayed, was overall delicious. I felt lucky to have plenty of food to cook and share, and good friends with whom to enjoy it.

Althea, David, and Alex (friends)

Everyone wore their most festive gray sweaters. (Lucky, because it’s the color of quarters?)

Will it bring us luck for the rest of the year? Maybe. One last good omen is to have leftovers of your Hoppin’ John, which then gets called Skippin’ Jenny. Don’t ask me why—no one even knows why it’s called Hoppin’ John. Leftovers demonstrate frugality, which is sure to increase prosperity (according to tradition, if not to some economists).

Sprue Jr. and I just yesterday polished off the last of the Skippin’ Jenny, so we must be pretty lucky. But, we purposefully made more food than we could eat, in order to have leftovers. So if anything, we made that luck for ourselves.

friend serving herself vegetarian Hoppin' John

Not pictured: the pot of Hoppin’ John, which my food photography talents are not equal to portraying in a decent way.

In my opinion, it’s often that way, with luck. As the owner of a chronic disease, I won’t say that there’s no such thing as bad luck. But I do think we can, at least sometimes, set ourselves up for “lucky” things to happen. (And many psychologists agree!)

I felt unlucky after my party was a bust, with not so much as a refund of the tickets (thanks, Rubulad). But the night might’ve gone better if I’d settled my plans sooner and nabbed tickets to a different, quickly sold-out, event—or if I’d bounced back more quickly after the party’s premature demise.

Sure, bad things will always happen. But by adjusting plans and perspectives, we can bring ourselves more of the good stuff. It’s too late now to cook a New Year’s Day meal for 2014 (though you should try Hoppin’ John anyway, if you never have), but you can still make sure you have a lucky year. If you’re gluten-free, for example, you can choose wisely when you go out to eat or shop to avoid unlucky glutenings. In any area of life, putting in some effort and putting on a smile might bring us all the luck we need. 

So, a little belatedly, here’s to 2014. May it bring you good luck, good food, and good times—and may you help make darn sure it does.

Do you agree that we make our own luck? Do you celebrate New Year’s Day or Eve with traditional foods? And did you make any resolutions this year?

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The kindness of strangers, and a springtime surprise

On February 10th, two important things happened: First, I started my blog. Then, I lost my wallet.

I’d gone out to try to buy a certain size screw that my roommate needed for the counter he was installing in the wall for my very own gluten-free use (my roommates are very supportive and all-around great guys). I’d known I had celiac disease for nearly two weeks, and the weekend before, despite firm intentions, I hadn’t accomplished much of my kitchen makeover. This particular Sunday, I was more motivated. Unfortunately, although I went to three different stores, I didn’t find the right screws. I did, though, manage to pick up a wide array of tupperware and cheap utensils—and drop my wallet.

When I realized what had happened, I frantically retraced my steps. I threw myself upon the cashiers’ mercy in all three stores; in all three stores, they shook their heads sadly. The ground was slushy that day, so a red wallet would have shown up easily; it wasn’t anywhere along my route. It wasn’t on or under the shelves in any of the stores where I’d bent to inspect kitchenware, either, or near any of the hardware sections where I’d put my hand into my pocket to pull out the too-small screw I’d brought for comparison and, most likely, knocked my wallet to the floor.

When I got home to check my bank balances, the debit card had already been used (wisely enough) for an unlimited monthly subway pass. I canceled my cards, submitted a lost-and-found report on the MTA website, and resigned myself to never seeing that wallet ever again.

After the initial shock and self-beration, I got over the loss pretty quickly. I hadn’t been carrying much cash, and cards can be canceled. And enough was going on already that this just didn’t feel like that big of a deal. I already had to redo my kitchen, rework my entire mode of socializing, and eat strictly gluten-free for life. What was one more inconvenience?

Over the weeks that followed, I realized that losing a wallet isn’t just one inconvenience; it’s many. Besides canceling the credit cards, there’s the driver’s license to replace, and a stolen wallet report to be filed at a police station if you want to  replace the license for free; there are the library cards, the laundry card, the store loyalty cards (nooo, not the CVS ExtraCare card!), and the coupons and gift cards you’ve been hoarding; there’s the MTA monthly pass you’d already bought, and the pre-tax prepaid commuter checks you were meant to use to buy more passes in the months ahead; there’s the health insurance card, as I remembered while sitting in the waiting room at my latest doctor’s appointment; and of course, there’s replacing the wallet itself.

Now, I’m a lazy person when it comes to this sort of personal maintenance thing. I barely made a dent in replacing most of the above. In fact, all I replaced right away were the debit/credit cards and the ExtraCare card—because these are basic necessities. I carried these cards, plus a pay-as-you-go MetroCard, in a Ziploc bag for about two weeks before finally buying a $5 wallet from a street vendor. I made overtures toward replacing my insurance card and promised myself to file that police report any day now. I believe that at no point—until now—did I mention to my parents I’d lost the wallet, because my mother has literally “told me so” that my wallet would fall out of my unzipped jacket pocket one day.

Now, I’m glad I moved slow. Because someone out there with a pure and beautiful soul returned my wallet and made it all unnecessary. The wallet slowly wended its way to the old Washington Heights address listed on my driver’s license and from there was forwarded on the winds of the US Postal Service to my current apartment door, where it arrived yesterday.

Photo on 3-21-13 at 9.49 PM #4

As a kid, I had this annoying habit of saying, “Just what I always wanted!” in response to every gift I opened ever, obliterating any real sentiment in the phrase through overuse. But when I pulled my faithful red wallet (with all its contents intact besides the cash and bank cards) out of the mysterious yellow package, it really was just what I’d always wanted—or, at least, what I’d wanted since February 10th. Up until that moment, yesterday hadn’t been the best day, but this made the end of it great. To whoever it was who returned the wallet—even if you were the same person who took the credit cards—thank you.

I know that yesterday I was joking about springtime, new beginnings, and messages from the stars, but this almost does feel like a sign that my luck is turning, that things are on the up and up. Even my laptop’s camera is working again.

The wallet also held an old fortune cookie slip that read, You have a potential urge and the ability for accomplishment. I’d forgotten all about it, but I think I saved it because I found it a funny, qualified fortune; “potential urge” and “ability for accomplishment” aren’t exactly the most ringing of endorsements. Still, if the fortune felt significant enough to save before, now it feels positively definitive.

This month, along with my Aries friends, I’ll do my best to live up to my good fortune and accomplish a potential urge or two. Removing the former potential urge to replace my wallet contents is a helpful boost that should allow me to redirect my ability to accomplish toward other, more important goals. I will strive to be a worthy recipient of this generous springtime gift.

Photo on 3-21-13 at 7.47 PM #3

Thank you, thank you, benevolent universe and kind stranger.

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The luck o’ the Irish

Photo © YankeeNovember3

Photo © YankeeNovember3

Are you wearing green today? I am! I’m not fully Irish, but I’ve always felt most attached to the Irish bit o’ my heritage (maybe it comes of being named Molly and having an older brother named Patrick—if you’re reading, happy name day). Lately, with all the St. Patty’s Day fervor—Irish soda bread recipes right and left in the blogosphere, viridescent-clad ladies walking arm-in-arm down the street belting “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean”—I can’t help but let my thoughts drift to the Emerald Isle. In particular, I’ve been musing on the luck o’ the Irish.

Given the colorful (and I don’t just mean green) history of the Irish people, this phrase has always confused me. Sure, the Irish gave us four-leaf clovers and leprechauns, but it’s not as though the Irish are particularly lucky, all things considered. They’ve faced oppression, famine, prejudice, and internecine strife; their heritage has been reduced, in the United States at least, to a single day of green food coloring and daytime binge drinking per year; and the international financial crisis of the past several years hit them, well, not exactly like a pot of gold. As my thorough internet surfing has confirmed, my confusion is well founded. Experts suggest that the phrase may have originated as a slur at worst or an ironical joke at best. In other words, the luck o’ the Irish is no luck at all.

I’ve heard again and again that the Irish also have bad luck when it comes to celiac disease. The Irish have the highest rate of celiac disease in the world, I’ve read; western Ireland apparently has it even worse than the rest; and the Reverend Peter Green even used JFK’s Irish heritage as additional evidence in his case that the president may have had celiac disease. How’s that for an end-of-the-rainbow reward?

But…when I started looking into the origins of this claim, I found a 1970s study indicating a 1 in 300 prevalence of celiac disease in Ireland. Although multiple articles since then have referenced this statistic to shore up the claim that the Irish are disproportionately affected by celiac, the going statistic for the prevalence in the United States is 1 in 133—clearly a higher probability than 1 in 300. And the more recent the study or source, the less likely the author is to claim that celiac strikes more often in the Irish population. The most recent data seems to indicate the highest rate of celiac disease appears in the Saharawi population in the Western Sahara—not an Irish- or otherwise European-descended population.

So, have the Irish have gotten luckier, or the rest of the world a little unluckier? Or is it simply that the authors of the original study were unlucky in their margin of error?

Photo © cuorhome

Photo © cuorhome

I’m not sure. But as a proud part-Irish lass, I feel lucky to know there’s no pressing need to blame my celiac diagnosis on my Gaelic forebears. Plus, although some celiac-stricken Celts may feel unlucky to lose their Guinness and soda bread, their true national treasure, the potato, is naturally gluten-free. Personally, I count this as good fortune indeed.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! I hope your eyes, Irish or otherwise, are smilin’.

Are you celebrating today? Cooking anything special? Perhaps enjoying a pint or two of green beer (or Green’s beer)? Do you, too, find it hard to feel unlucky when potatoes aren’t blighted?

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