The informant is Italian-American and lives in Staten Island. She describes her family’s New Years tradition of eating a cup of lentils. They are not cooked in a stew or spiced up at all. Rather, they are boiled plainly and then taken like a shot out of a cup. The informant says that lentils “bring good luck on new years,” and represent luck and prosperity among Italian people. So, taking them like a shot is a purely pragmatic tradition over a culinary one.
Lentils are a type of bean, and beans are a well-documented symbol of fertility and prosperity. Therefore, it makes sense for them to represent similar values in Italian folklore. I wonder if every family eats them so pragmatically, or whether other families cook them into entire meals.