Black-eyed peas and cabbage has always been served to family and friends on New Years Day as we gather to celebrate. Parades followed by football games are on television with everyone talking at once, trying to hear and be heard. A dime or two is washed and tossed into the pot of black-eyed peas. As plates are served, everyone tries to scoop up the hidden dime for good luck. Cabbage, whether cooked or raw, is eaten for wealth.
Recipe by Pat Savoie
Dried black-eyed peas, from the garden or store bought (soak in water overnight or simmer for 20 minutes then drain)
3 slices thick bacon, chopped into small pieces
1 large onion, chopped
6 cups of water, more or less as peas absorb
1 ham hock
2 tsp Tony’s Seasoning
Salt if needed
Brown bacon pieces then add chopped onions. Saute until clear.
Add peas, water, ham hock and Tony’s
Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer for about an hour or until tender.
Serve over cooked rice or by itself
Here is a little history on eating Black-Eyed Peas each New Year:
A Southern Tradition for Luck and Prosperity in the New Year
The practice of eating black-eyed peas for luck is generally believed to date back to the Civil War. At first planted as food for livestock, and later a food staple for slaves in the South, the fields of black-eyed peas were ignored as Sherman’s troops destroyed or stole other crops, thereby giving the humble, but nourishing, black-eyed pea an important role as a major food source for surviving Confederates.
Today, the tradition of eating black-eyed peas for the New Year has evolved into a number of variations and embellishments of the luck and prosperity theme including:
• Served with greens (collards, mustard or turnip greens, which varies regionally), the peas represent coins and the greens represent paper money. In some areas cabbage is used in place of the greens.
• Cornbread, often served with black-eyed peas and greens, represents gold.
• For the best chance of luck every day in the year ahead, one must eat at least 365 black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day.
• Black-eyed peas eaten with stewed tomatoes represent wealth and health.
• In some areas, actual values are assigned with the black-eyed peas representing pennies or up to a dollar each and the greens representing anywhere from one to a thousand dollars.
• Adding a shiny penny or dime to the pot just before serving is another tradition practiced by some. When served, the person whose bowl contains the penny or dime receives the best luck for the New Year, unless of course, the recipient swallows the coin, which would be a rather unlucky way to start off the year.
The catch to all of these superstitious traditions is that the black-eyed peas are the essential element and eating only the greens without the peas, for example, will not do the trick.