13 Good-Luck Foods for Friday the 13th
Couldn't we all use a little positive boost right now? Long-life noodles, garlicky steak, and Lucky Charms milkshakes are a few of the foods that brighten our outlook.
I’m not superstitious in the least. I walk under ladders without thinking twice, and my neighbor’s black cat brings me nothing but pleasure. And yet, when the 13th day of the month happens to be a Friday, I can’t help getting a little spooked.
See, my grandmother was born on the 13th of the month, and twice during my childhood her birthday fell on a Friday. Both times she and my mom anticipated it with dread. They discussed it for weeks beforehand, debating whether to gather on another day just in case. Wouldn’t something as joyful as a birthday celebration on Friday the 13th just be tempting fate? Sure enough, something "bad" happened each day. We’re talking small mishaps like stubbed toes and misplaced sweaters. Looking back, I realize these calamities would’ve happened if the 13th had fallen on Thursday, too, yet I left childhood with a vague sense that Friday the 13th brings bad luck.
But just as superstitions foretell unpleasantry, they can also promise more positive things—wealth, fertility, general good karma. And around the world, lucky food traditions can give us some delicious options to ward off any bad vibes this Friday the 13th. I’ve gathered a baker’s dozen of these culinary talismans, along with recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks that play up their fortuitous attributes. Choose one or more to ward off any bad mojo that might be headed your way on Friday.
Y’know, just in case.
In many Asian countries, long, uncut noodles symbolize longevity, prosperity, and good luck. (Plus, my picky eater thinks they’re fun to eat—I consider anything he’ll actually eat to be pretty lucky, for me at least.) In China, Long Life Noodles appear on the banquet table at celebrations. The noodles themselves, yi mein, are known as “longevity noodles,” and they’re made with soda water to produce a distinctive, chewy texture. This classic version, a simple stir-fry with shiitake mushrooms and Chinese chives, is ready in just 20 minutes—and it has 13 ingredients, which has to be significant, right?
The superstitions around garlic and good luck mostly center on carrying a clove in your pocket (the smell wards off evil spirits, apparently), but I’d much rather eat it. Garlic Butter Brazilian Steak calls for a full tablespoon of minced garlic—that’s about six cloves—and just three other ingredients. It only takes 15 minutes, and you wind up with a magically delicious skirt steak that’s both deeply beefy and super-garlicky, in the best possible way. I’m pretty sure if you look in the dictionary under the word “lucky,” you’ll see a picture of this dish.
In my research, I found two reasons why people eat pork for good luck. The first is straightforward—all that rich fat (in some pork cuts, at least) symbolizes prosperity. But the second explanation seems much more interesting to me, having to do with the way pigs naturally behave: They root around with their snouts in a forward motion, which suggest progress, momentum. Cast-Iron Skillet Pork Chops take advantage of the metal’s ability to get scorching hot—it creates a luscious, golden-brown crust surrounding juicy meat. The chops start out simply seasoned with salt and pepper, but a quick baste at the end with a butter-garlic-sage pan sauce takes them over the top.
Picture what happens when you break open a pomegranate: all those juicy seeds. No wonder the fruit is a symbol of fertility and rebirth, reaching back to ancient times in the Middle East and elsewhere in the Mediterranean. Short of just scooping the seeds into your mouth, I can’t think of an easier way to enjoy pomegranates than in a Pomegranate Breakfast Parfait. Layers of yogurt, granola, pumpkin seeds, and pomegranate make a gorgeous start to your day, with the perfect balance of creamy, crunchy, sweet, and filling—and putting it together takes about as much time as it does to pour a bowl of cereal.
The flat little discs were thought to resemble coins, which inspired the lucky reputation of lentils; Italians eat lentil soup to ring in the new year. Big Green Lentil Salad, besides being gorgeous, is packed with delicious, healthy ingredients like avocado, sunflower seeds, and of course, lentils. A garlicky yogurt sauce anchors the plate, and the salad itself features peppery baby arugula and aromatic basil to balance the lentils’ earthiness. Make sure to have pita on hand, since you’re going to want to scoop up every bite.
6. Black-Eyed Peas
Just like ancient Italians decided lentils look like coins, at some point in more recent history folks in the southern United States decided black-eyed peas did, too. That’s why Hoppin’ John, a smoky stew made with black-eyed peas, rice, and sometimes collard greens, is the traditional New Year’s meal. Hoppin’ John Salad takes the basic elements and turns them into a quick, light supper. Frozen black-eyed peas, corn kernels, and baby lima beans get tossed with oil and vinegar, cooked rice, and crumbled bacon. The recipe calls for chilling the mixture, but I like it warm.
Just as lentils and black-eyed peas are coin-like, leafy greens are said to bring good fortune because they resemble cash money. Sounds about right—but then again, I’m such a fan I’d eat them even if they didn’t come with a nifty superstition. Fiery Kale With Garlic and Olive Oil seems simple enough: It’s basically just sautéed greens. But strips of hard salami, thin slivers of garlic, and a generous half-teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes turn this into something memorable. The recipe suggests it as a side for pizza, but I’d happily dig into a giant bowlful on its own.
In Spain, at midnight on New Year’s Eve, everyone races to gobble down 12 grapes, one for each chime of the bell. If you pull it off, the superstition goes, you’ll have good luck for the next 12 months. Friday, March 13, is not New Year’s Eve, obviously, but I like the idea that you can overcome 13’s bad luck with 12 sweet little grapes. Roasted Olive and Grape Crostini seems like the perfect way to do it—juicy grapes, briny olives, rosemary, and a pinch of red pepper flakes get roasted together until their flavors blend seductively; then you pile the mixture atop ricotta-slathered toasted baguette. That definitely sounds lucky to me.
9. Rice Pudding
I must warn you: This recipe is only going to bring good luck to one person. In Scandinavian countries at Christmas, the cook hides a single, whole almond in the rice pudding. Whoever finds the nut in their portion is promised good luck for the year. Rice pudding is one of my favorite treats, to I’m pretty psyched to try adding an almond to this classic version of the dish. Simple and creamy, with an egg for richness, dark brown sugar for deep sweetness, and a sprinkle of cinnamon, it’ll make your inner child happy. Even if you don't get the almond.
I’m Jewish, and honey is one of my people’s top symbolic foods for Rosh Hashanah, the religious new year. We dip apple slices and challah in the golden syrup to usher in 12 months of sweetness, and after the Rosh Hashanah feast, dessert almost always features honey. Lekach (Honey-Spice Cake) is one of those recipes that gets passed down through generations. It stars honey, yes, but also an array of spices, fresh orange juice, and a splash of Grand Marnier. Fancy!
11. Ring-Shaped Foods
This one’s all about the visuals. Picture a ring, and you can see why foods in that shape can represent life coming full-circle. Think bagels, onion rings, Bundt cakes, Danish rings, angel food cake—heck, even Cheerios could count, I suppose. But when it comes to ring-shaped food, nothing can beat a good donut. Snickerdoodle Donuts are baked, not fried, so they’re a wee bit healthier than the usual, and to make them special they’re coated in melted butter, then dipped in cinnamon sugar. I know, right?!
12. Round Cakes
I’ll bet you can guess why a round cake would be considered good luck. Spoiler: for the same reason as ring-shaped food. Between you and me, this entry might just be a good excuse to bake an irresistibly fudgy cake. Dark & Dreamy Chocolate Fudge Layer Cake, for example. It has three layers of moist, deeply chocolatey cake, separated by a rich frosting that uses melted chocolate, cocoa powder, and sour cream for an outrageously thick texture. One bite of this cake will make you feel like you won the lottery.
13. Lucky Charms
Come on, say it with me: They’re magically delicious! Lucky Charms cereal may not literally bring you luck, but the sweet crunch paired with the colorful marshmallows will brighten even the roughest Friday the 13th. These Lucky Charms Milkshakes have only four ingredients (one of which is the cereal itself) and take all of five minutes to put together. If someone made such a glorious treat for you, wouldn’t you feel like the luckiest person in the world?