Fish, Fisheries and Queryomics
In Europe, indeed throughout the world, there are a variety of foods that are traditionally eaten, or avoided, at the New Year. For example, in Hungary eating chicken or fish on New Year’s Day is believed to be unlucky. Chickens can scratch away good luck. Good luck can float or swim away with fish.
Beel appreciates culural diversity, but Beel is all about fish. Beel notes that the Germans have a different (more enlightened?) take on eating fish at the beginning of the New Year. New Year’s Eve carp (Silvesterkarpfen) is a common part of the holiday meal. The carp can be baked, pan-fried, grilled, or smoked. Yummy.
Traditionally, the head of the family places one of the carp’s scales under his plate, while eating, and then keeps it in his wallet for the rest of the year. This is to insure his wallet will remain full. In like manner, scales hidden throughout the house are thought to bring this same good fortune to the entire family.
Silvesterkarpfen is definitely a seasonal thing. Beel used Google Trends to examine internet searches for Silvesterkarpfen. Please, let Beel present the results. Search volume shows no temporal trend, but searches are restricted to late December and very early January. There was a lot interest in Silvesterkarpfen in 2007, it disappeared in 2008, but has been relatively constant since. Anyone out there know why?
Beyond carp, though, Beel observes that there are a number of other fine piscine dining traditions practiced at the New Year.
Herring, especially pickled herring, is eaten on New Year’s Day, in Poland, Germany, and some Scandinavian countries, where it is believed to bring a year of prosperity and bounty. Beel will pass on this one. Beel had one bad afternoon after having pickled herring at breakfast (must have been left over from the previous day, week, or something).
In Japan, herring roe (kazunoko) is consumed as an indicator of fertility. Herring produce may eggs and, presumably, persons eating the roe similarly will have many children.
In Denmark and other Scandinavian countries, boiled cod with mustard sauce is eaten to bring in the New Year. Cod is considered to be a lucky food- eating it at the start of the year insures a bountiful catch throughout the upcoming year. Dried salted cod (baccala) is popular on New Year’s Eve in Italy. Beel has eaten bacalao (Spanish spelling) in Spain and it is a much nicer dish than one might at first expect.
Red snapper (tai) is eaten on New Year’s Day in Japan. Tai has the same pronunciation as the last syllable as medatai, which means happy or joyful. Thus, red snapper is believed to be a lucky food.
Again, Beel appreciates cultural diversity, but all of this surely beats black-eyed peas, which have long been associated with good luck, as a New Year’s tradition in much of the United States.