If you live in the South, and even if you don't, chances are you or someone you know prepared black-eyed peas for New Year's Day. While it's not my personal favorite, my husband-a born and bread Mississippi Delta boy-understands how bacon and well-prepared collard greens make all the difference when enjoying this "lucky" dish.
Black-eyed peas are not something I grew up eating. In fact, it wasn't until I was married that they began gracing our plates. Because as every New Year's Eve would roll around, like clockwork my husband would head to the market for pork chops, peas, and greens. He insisted from year one that to have 7 peas in your first bite ensured prosperity for the new year ahead. If I were from anywhere else than New Orleans I might have scoffed at the notion, but hey, I believe in that juju, and thus, our family tradition was born.
It's something many families cleave to, funnily enough. But do you know why they're considered to be so lucky? Here's a little lesson in Southern history according to Southern Plate's Christy Jordan.
"I’ve told this story before, but it certainly bears repeating in reference to this meal. Back in the days of civil war, Union troops swept through the south, confiscating crops and livestock to use as provisions for their troops. Southerners who weren’t off fighting were left with precious little, save for peas and greens. You see, Union soldiers considered “field peas” and greens to be fit only for animal fodder. These dishes became cherished and appreciated as what saved many a family from starvation during those times and the tradition of celebrating these dishes on the new year was born."
Wasn't that nice of those Union boys? You never know what will be forged by the things left behind. In the case of the Southerners, it was hope born out of necessity, and pretty filling meals as well.
So ends our little lesson on black-eyed peas. I'm not sure if it really makes them taste any better, but it does add a little something to every bite.
A Happy New Year to you all! May it be lucky and prosperous-peas or no peas.