New Year’s resolutions are a treacherous game. Losing weight. Eating better. Spending practice time on the range. All are admirable goals. Unfortunately, resolutions rarely result in permanent change. The new habits often last only a month or so into the new year.
I usually fall short of my New Year’s resolutions despite making them in print. I was ahead of the curve on my weight loss goals for 2023 until I slipped on ice the morning after the last snow of the season. Spending three months recuperating in bed and another three getting comfortable walking again is a lousy way to lose weight.
After that misfortune there was still some luck involved in that by the opening day of hunting season, the leg was no longer my biggest handicap in the field. My annual fall regression to the mean revealed that yet again, shooting is my weakest link.
So, I decided against resolutions this year. Instead, I will focus on fertilizing the metaphorical chukar grounds with good luck. And starting the new year on a lucky note entails eating the right meal the first day of the year.
I stumbled on my moment of insight while reading about pickled herring, a good-luck food that traces its tradition back to Poland and Scandinavia, places near seas where herring are plentiful and the locals love to eat them.
I’ve never tried herring, pickled or otherwise, and I’m wary of strongly flavored fish marinated in pickling juice. It sounds like it might be a little too much, but if someone offers a bite on New Year’s Day, I’ll try it. Even the ripest culinary tradition usually earns that status on merit.
I don’t consistently eat a New Year’s meal, but when I do it’s usually black-eyed peas with smoked pork and a side of cabbage. One modification I intend is that instead of pork, I’ll make my black-eyed peas with smoked pheasant legs. It seems proper to incorporate some sort of wild game into the mix. And since I haven’t jumped on the invasive-hog, eco-hunting express, birds will have to do.
Smoked pheasant would also be a fine addition to lentils, an Italian New Year’s tradition. I regularly eat an Italian lentil pasta, though not the one touted as a good luck charm. I’ve never eaten them on New Year’s either, but lentils fit the legume tradition.
Smoked pheasant works with many common New Year’s meals such as dumplings, greens, tamales and noodles. And while not directly attached to the legs, the bird also provides a wishbone in case you want to double down on your bet.
Once we’ve earned our good fortune by eating something delicious we have to decide what to wish for. I’ve been thinking about the weather down south and you probably know the American Southwest was slammed in 2023 by a winter of historic proportions. That gave hope to quail hunters such as myself that this season would be special.
Sadly, all that rain came on the heels of an equally historic drought. You need epic rain on top of a solid population of quail to create a season you’ll never forget.
The good news is there’s another El Niño brewing in the eastern Pacific and that warm ocean water piling up on the South American coast often results in wet winters in the Southwest. Rain on top of more quail means lots of quail next fall.
El Niño also means drier winters up north, however, which is bad for skiers and awful for rivers.
If I eat enough on New Year’s Day my hope is that my wish of just enough El Niño to grow quail in the south, but not so much that the ski slopes run bare and Montana trout streams dry up next winter, comes true.
It would be nice to get all the good luck for a change.
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