Food & Drink

Lentil soup helps ring in the new year for prosperity

A Bite of Brazil: Recipes from South America

This lentil soup is thought to bring you good luck. To ring in the new year, Brazilians eat 12 grapes - one for each mon
This lentil soup is thought to bring you good luck. To ring in the new year, Brazilians eat 12 grapes — one for each month of the year — for luck and lentils, which are meant to bring prosperity. (Alexandra Olsen)

On Jan. 1, 2020, just as they have done countless times before, Brazilians all over the world will take special precautions to ensure their upcoming year is filled with peace, prosperity and most of all, luck.

Superstitions, myths or old wives’ tales — whatever you might call them — are everywhere in Brazilian culture, and during no other time are they more important than at the start of a new year, also known as “reveillon.”

In just a few days, I will be returning to my home country to spend the holidays with my family, which means that at the stroke of midnight New Year’s Eve, I will crawl underneath a table and eat 12 grapes and a bowl of lentils. All while wearing white, for peace, of course.

The grapes, one for each month of the year, are meant to bring luck and, because of their coin-like shape, lentils are meant to bring prosperity.

This tradition holds a special place in my heart, and I have hardly ever missed it, even if I had to bring my own grapes and crawl under the table by myself.

It reminds me of being a kid, sneaking under the table with my cousins and giggling as we ate our grapes and lentils and internalized our hopes for the coming year.

Not only can these lentils be enjoyed for their supposed supernatural qualities, they also can be enjoyed as the perfect meal for a cold winter day, which is what we can expect from a New Year’s Day in Iowa.

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Although I can’t promise these lentils will bring you good fortune in 2020, I can promise that this cheap meal will make your taste buds feel rich — even if you choose to eat them at the table rather than underneath it.

Lentil Soup

2 cups dry lentils

4 cups chicken stock

6 cups water

2 bay leaves

1 kielbasa sausage, cut into half-circles

5 strips of bacon, diced

1 cup carrots, cut into coins

1 large onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, diced

Begin by spreading the dry lentils on a clean, flat surface and examining for rocks or discolored grains, discard as needed.

Rinse what you plan to cook with cold water.

In a large pot, add lentils, chicken stock and water. Place on high heat until boiling.

Add bay leaves and carrots then turn down the heat to simmer. Place a lid on the pot, leaving a small space for the steam to exit.

While the lentils continue to boil, saute bacon and sausage in a skillet. Once bacon is cooked, remove both from the pan and drain out oil.

In the same pan, add onions, garlic and a splash of water to deglaze. Cook until onions have softened and water has mostly evaporated, about three to five minutes. Add meat and onion to the pot of lentils. Cook lentils until they are completely soft and the broth is cloudy, about 30 minutes total. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with fresh Italian bread.

Source: Alexandra Olsen

You can follow Alexandra Olsen on Instagram, @FeedMeIowa, for more recipes and restaurant recommendations.

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