When the new year rolled around each January, my mom always cooked a pot full of black-eye peas for the supper table.
She’d buy the dry variety kind in the bag and soak them overnight in water with a pinch of salt. She would then stew them for several hours on the stove before serving.
A Southern favorite, I grew up eating black-eye peas.
They are thought to bring good luck and financial success in the new year and many people in the south still enjoy them. That must have been why I ate them often, and still do to this day.
According to Wikipedia, the black-eye pea is a legume grown around the world for its medium-sized edible bean. It is a subspecies of the cowpea, an Old World plant domesticated in Africa, and is sometimes simply called a cowpea.
The planting of crops of black-eye peas was promoted by George Washington Carver because, as a legume, it adds nitrogen to the soil and has high nutritional value, noted Wikipedia. It contains calcium, folate, protein, fiber and vitamin A. My mom always told me I needed to eat my vitamins.
Some people mix black-eye peas with greens or add rice and pork (bacon, ham, fatback or hog jowl) and diced onion. Some top them off with a dash of hot sauce or jalapenos.
Some in the south eat a dish called Hoppin’ John, a traditional soul food. I’ve never heard of it. According to Wikipedia, the dish is known as Carolina peas and rice and is made with black-eye peas, rice, chopped onion, bacon and seasoned with salt.
Some people make a black-eye pea salsa. It includes celery, green onions, red bell peppers, cucumber, jalapeno, cilantro and black-eye peas. A dressing made with sugar, vinegar, wine, celery seed, dry mustard and salt is poured over the top.
It was nothing fancy for my family. We just ate black-eye peas straight from the pan, maybe with a slice of bacon or two. Add a side of cornbread with a slather of butter and one would be in hog heaven.
They’re good with any kind of meat – pork, beef, chicken or with an iron skillet of fried potatoes. My favorite is pork chops, mashed potatoes and black-eye peas.
Back in the day, I used to bake beef hot dogs in the oven and eat them with black-eye peas on the side. The beef kind, which cost more, are much better than plan hot dogs.
These days, I typically eat the can variety, mainly because I don’t want to take the time to soak and stew them. My mom always told me to get the fresh shelled variety. It says it right on the can. You can find them in my native state of Oklahoma, but are not as likely here in Iowa.
I typically buy the variety with bacon and toss in a pat of butter and microwave them for 3.5 minutes and they are good to go. I sometimes heat them on the stove and that is just as good.
Like okra, another Southern favorite, some stores don’t carry black-eye peas. If your store doesn’t carry, ask for it or check online for companies that offer the southern delight.
There are many other foods served around the world on New Year’s Day that bring luck. I checked the internet and found the following:
Sauerkraut, because of its green color, is associated with luck and fortune. For many Eastern Europeans, Germans and Pennsylvania Dutch, eating sauerkraut is said to bring good luck and wealth.
Pomegranate, a fruit served throughout the Mediterranean and the Middle East, is a sign of fertility and abundance.
Soba noodles, served in Japan, symbolizes a long life. The length of the soba noodle symbolizes a long life, while the buckwheat in the flour brings resiliency into the new year.
Tamales, a dish that dates back as early as 8000 to 5000 B.C., is a Mexican food known for bringing together family and friends and is shared with loved ones.
There are other foods from around the world that bring people together and are believed to bring blessings with them.
No matter your traditions, now that 2021 is here, I encourage you to spend time with your families, enjoy life (take a vacation, the work will be there when you get home), do something you’ve always wanted to do, follow your dreams and look for the positives in yourself and others this year.
Have a great week and always remember that “Good Things are Happening,” every day and always.