Looking For Luck In All The Right Places

Happy New Year, 2002. It’s a palindrome, you know, 2002. A palindrome is a word that reads the same backwards and forwards, like mom or dad or gag. The last time we had a palindromic year was 1991, and the one before that was clear back in 1881. And, there won’t be another one for 110 years, not until the year 2112. These are rare years, indeed! It’s a gas to be living in one.

Two years ago as January came around, we were all so worried about what might happen to the computers. Last year in January, we had to concern ourselves with whether the year 2000 or the year 2001 was the “real” millennium. This January we can just enjoy the palindrome. It is certain that 2002 will be a great year for low carbers, even if the phrases “planned cheats,” “going off the wagon,” or even “going to hell in a hand cart” are still in our vocabularies.

Glorious Spouse and I waltzed our way through the gatherings and get-togethers of the Christmas holidays (even through Gourmet Christmas) without eating chocolate, potatoes, or pasta. I do have to admit that some of it was truly sad at the time, we are human after all. We turned down a two-pound box of chocolate-covered nuts from See’s Candy. We turned down an invitation to a dessert-only potluck party. But, now that we are past those seductions, we are happier and more svelte for having resisted. And we’ve even made a few New Year’s Resolutions to make life better for the coming months, or at least for the few weeks we manage to keep them. Yup, things are hunky-dory on our end.

But, since there’s always something else to worry about, here is the first crucial issue of the New Year: since we live low carb, we won’t be eating the black-eyed peas that would assure good luck in the coming year. The question of the moment is: will this non-action, the not-eating, be the same as breaking a mirror? Or crossing the path of the neighbor’s black cat? One can only hope not, having no source to ask.

Friend Jim’s grandmother was the first to tell us about the Southern folklore of black-eyed peas. It appears that everyone must eat some ‘black eyes’ during the first days of the New Year, preferably on New Year’s Day, to summon good luck for the coming year. Prior to hearing this, it had always seemed that I had more or less the same amount of luck from one year to the next. After all, I did meet and marry Glorious Spouse long before I knew I needed to eat black-eyes on New Year’s Day! I had never eaten black-eyed peas at all before the year Grandma told me about this surefire way to win the Irish Sweepstakes. I can only guess that it made a difference that I hadn’t known anything about the subject before then, so I couldn’t have been expected to act on it. But, what about now?

The year Grandma related the facts, and every year thereafter until going hardcore Low Carb, we boiled up some black-eyes with chopped onion and chicken broth for a midnight snack on New Year’s Eve. A head start on luck for the year. Seems like the black-eyes worked well enough, since Glorious Spouse and I have been tripping on down the road without too many problems, but I recognize that it might just be a case of May This House Be Safe From Tigers. It’s been ten or more years since Jim’s grandma told me about black-eyes, and she has passed on now, so there is no way to check with her about our low carb dilemma of how to get the luck without eating the carbs.

The legend is clouded in mystery. As far as I can tell, the origin of black-eyed peas as bringers of good luck is not known, but it is clear that no self-respecting Southerner, even those who don’t like black-eyed peas, will allow the 2nd of January to arrive without at least a tiny bite of the little legumes to pass his/her lips. Now I suppose Glorious Spouse and I could each eat a single little bean to take on a single little bit of good luck, but how could we possibly cook just two beans?

I propose finding some low carb-friendly ways to assure winning the lottery and things like that. We could wear red clothing during the Chinese New Year celebration next month. We could seek out a pregnant woman and touch her belly. Or how about a few choruses of Lucky Ducky: “Lady Bug, Silver Dollar, Rabbit’s Foot; a Four-Leaf Clover, and a Horseshoe!” Maybe we should try all of these ideas.

But, you know, as I sit here trying to think of what is considered to be lucky, I find it is easier to remember what is supposed to be unlucky: buying your own opals, stepping on cracks in the sidewalk, walking under ladders. Maybe it really boils down to this, we make our own good luck, and luck probably doesn’t have very much to do with any of it.

However, being the sort who likes to cover all the possibilities, I have a plan, and all of you can participate in it with me. The custom of black-eyed peas as good luck food had an origin somewhere in the past, though it is now lost in clouds. How’s about we just start our own custom, and let the origin of our custom be hidden from those in future years? Are you ready?

Here is our legend-to-be: You will attract incredible good luck by eating crispy pork rinds dipped in sugar-free peanut butter during the first few days of the New Year. See what perfect sense it makes? Since sugar is bad news, by avoiding it, you’ll be avoiding bad luck. And, if you want to add a little spice to the coming year, add a little Tabasco sauce or chili powder to the peanut butter.

Now, don’t you feel luckier already? Yes sir, the year is really off to a good start now! And many years in the future, some other wag will be writing a similar article, and he’ll say “the origins of pork rinds and sugarless peanut butter as bringers of good luck is unclear.” We’ll all be famous, even if they won’t know who we were!


ZACK GRADY writes from Southern California, sometimes from a buffet line.

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