All of the Erasmus students are already enjoying the winter break and the most magical time of the year. Everybody had been waiting for these holidays, preparing presents for families and friends, making their own New Year’s wish lists and decorating their places. But it goes without saying that the New Year could not be as memorable as it is without a table full of tasty winter dishes! Since Erasmus is quite international, I decided to ask some of the diverse freshmen about their traditions for preparing the New Year’s meal.
Enjoy tasty stories from fellow members of our program and maybe find some dishes that can be included in your New Year’s menu – or all year round, who’s judging?
Luigi Mele [Caserta, Italy]
I think most traditions in Italy are to be linked with food. Every region, city, a small town has its own typical dish. When it comes to New Year celebrations though, Italians all agree on a few things that shouldn’t be missing on their tables. Lentils are considered to bring good luck in terms of economic stability for the starting year. It is paired with either cotechino (a pork fatty sausage) or ham hock. That is because pork is also considered to be a symbol of good luck due to its fat and richness in meat. Since the typical dishes symbolize good luck, they are eaten right after midnight to wish a lucky year.
For New Year’s Eve dinner my family usually all gathers together at my grandma’s house where the women of the family all lend a hand in cooking the big dinner. Last years I’ve also been helping because these sexist principles bother me, but you know, it is what it is. For the cotechino, it is usually bought already ground (as in grind) into sausage and just needs to be cooked. What is more, not necessarily a tradition in the whole country, but in my family, we usually eat mandarins, not only because they’re a fruit in season, but also because we use the skin for tombola, a popular Italian game during this period. It can be considered similar to bingo, so when someone calls out numbers, we cover those numbers on our tombola cards with the mandarin skin.
Lotte Johanna Marina Janse [Querétaro, Mexico]
In Querétaro, Mexico, there is no specific New Year’s dish, however, there are several traditional dishes that are often made during the weeks of Christmas and New Year. A famous dish is Bacalao, a dried and salted codfish, which is often eaten with rice. Of course, some good tamales, sopes, tacos, and quesadillas can’t be missed. For dessert, buñuelos, which is fried dough, are prepared and drizzled with syrup. But, arroz con leche and churros will also always be available at the buffet table.
How to make bacalao? I am not sure! I know it is a process that takes hours! First, the fish has to be soaked in water for a couple of hours. Then, you throw some vegetables with is, such as tomatoes, onions, or olives, and put it into the oven. However, about the tamales, sopes, tacos, and quesadillas, I would recommend getting them because there are some local places that make the best version possible. Finally, the desserts are the easiest to make! For the buñuelos, you just have to make the dough, separate them into a bunch of balls, and fry them!
Even though we do not have specific traditional New Year’s Eve dishes, we do have a tradition that has been going on for decades. When the clock hits 12, you have to eat 12 grapes. Ever grape represents a different month from the New Year, and you make a wish while you eat it!
Arjun Pai [Lucknow, India]
We don’t have a “festival” dish, however we do have dishes which are extremely famous in our city and eaten almost every day.
Main dishes are:
- Tunday Kebab. Tunday Kebab has a rather interesting history. Tunday means handicapped and they got their name because the person who made them first was handicapped. Over a 100 masalas go into the making of this royal kebab and they ensure that you don’t feel uneasy after having them. They literally melt in your mouth like ice cream and are best served with rumali roti.
- Tokri Chaat. It is undoubtedly Indian’s favourite go-to snack to add a little spice to our monotony. The filling leaves both your stomach and taste buds satiated. The crisper the tokri, the better! Also called Basket Chaat, Lucknow offers a variety of these in the streets.
- Lucknawi paan. No meal is complete if you don’t end it up with paan. Paan lovers would be in a for a treat because this paan is more than just patta, supari and gulkand (the ingredients) put together. It is an experience in itself and if you haven’t tasted it, you are missing out on life!
- Prakash Ki Kulfi. Last but definitely not least, make sure you end your Lucknow sojourn with Prakash Ki Kukfi – because if heaven came in colours, yellow would be the one! So special is the kulfi that the shop serves only Kulfi Faluda! Served in front of you in seconds, its flavour is perfect and leaves you wanting for more.
Although they’re quite famous and are made almost every day at home they’re mostly purchased from outside, from people known as Nawabs who are quite famous for cooking such dishes.
Carla Ferlin [Valbonne, France]
I come from a small town in the south East of France called Valbonne; it is near Nice and close to the Italian border.
We usually eat “foie gras” during Christmas and New Year’s Eve. The way foie gras is made is not very attractive, and is, in fact, sick duck liver. However, we usually buy it pre-made and serve it on bread toast with different sauces. The sauces can be sweet, such as fig marmalade, or salty – for instance, onion marmalade.
This dish can be eaten by people from different social levels, but it is usually pretty expensive, so we consume it the most with our close family during nice celebration evenings.
Nicolas Burbano [Leuven, Belgium]
A lot of special dishes such as chocolates, waffles, speculoos are considered to be typical for Christmas and New Year tables in Belgium. For the main course, the majority of families eat turkey or roast beef with different types of vegetables and potatoes, especially mashed potatoes.
As for me, I always have a Christmas dinner with my family, we usually gather together with my cousins, parents, uncle, aunt. Friends are spending Christmas with their families as well.
Janpriya Tanakadoo [Quatre-Bornes, Mauritius]
Mauritius is a multicultural country and due to this, there is a diverse range of dishes made for New Year by different groups.
One of them would probably be ‘Roti’ and ‘Chicken Curry’.
Roti is a thin flatbread made on the frying pan, but this can also be substituted with white rice. An alternative to the chicken could be ‘fish curry’. These are typical curry sauces with the fish/chicken/goat.
Another option that is common is called ‘La daube de Poulet’, this translates to ‘Chicken daube’, this is an originated French recipe that is widely known across the country. It is made up of fried chicken and onions, garlic, ginger and some spices. After mixing them all up, it is stewed together with a chilly sauce made of tomato. This dish is served with several other elements that make this a shared meal amongst close family and special friends, one of them is to serve it with sliced cucumber dipped in a slightly spicy sauce.
A salad is also presented and it is highly essential to have those components on the table because it gets very hot during Christmas and the salads help you to cool down especially if you’re eating very spicy food.
For dessert, we normally have multiple flavoured ice cream or some canned fruits. The canned fruits are typically mixed together with milk powder to add a sweet and soft texture to it.
Rebeca Bonocielli Fernandes dos Santos [Londrina, Paraná, Brazil]
Since Brazil is quite a big country it is hard to tell if all Brazilians share the same traditions for New Year’s Eve.
Overall, I think these ones are kind of the most common:
- Rice with lentils and some kind of protein such as fish or pork. It is summertime during New Year, so we always have different kinds of salads and fresh fruits. For dessert, we also eat something fresh that has fruits in it. Ice cream is welcome as well.
- By the way, Lentils are part of a tradition related to good fortune and prosperity.
- Now, this is a weird one. According to tradition, we are not supposed to eat animals that walk backwards while they are eating, such as chickens, for example.
- Another tradition relates to grapes. Grapes are supposed to bring good luck, so drinks made from grapes, such as wine and champagne, are always present, especially for the midnight toast. Also, some people say that we are supposed to eat 12 grapes before midnight to bring us luck and happiness on every month of the year.
Now, regarding my usual New Year experience, I have spent almost all my New Year’s Eve at Ubatuba, which is a city next to the beach in Brazil. I guess that is already a tradition.
Since we have easy access to seafood over there, we always end up eating something like that for dinner. This is usually family time and we all cook together, helping each other so no one is overwhelmed during the last day of the year. We try to keep things simple, easy and convenient. We end up improvising, just cooking whatever we feel like eating on that day, nothing specific.
For dessert, ice cream is almost mandatory, and we complete it with fresh fruits and Brazilian brigadeiro, a kind of chocolate cream.
And yes, I do eat the 12 grapes, just in case!
I hope this delicious journey put you a little more in the mood for New Year’s (in case you just can’t get into one). Perhaps this will contribute diversity and delicacy to your holiday table! If so, feel free to ask for recipes 😉
Author: Varya Editor: Ayesha