Eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day for luck
Corinne Powell December 24, 2012 11:24AM
Updated: January 27, 2013 6:02AM
Last year I was visiting family in one of the southern states over New Year’s and was served black-eyed peas. The hostess immediately told everyone that this would bring us all good luck.
If you are planning to celebrate the New Year in the Southeast, it is most likely that you will be offered black-eyed peas in some form, either just after midnight or on New Year’s Day. From grand gala gourmet dinners to small casual gatherings with friends and family, these flavorful legumes are traditionally, according to Southern folklore,.
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.
◆ 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.
◆ 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.
BLACK-EYED PEAS WITH HAM HOCKS
2 smoked ham hocks, split
2 quarts water
2 pounds fresh black-eyed peas
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
In a saucepan, bring the ham hocks and water to a boil, making sure the hocks are covered. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the meat can easily be removed from the bone and the stock is well flavored, about 11/2 hours.
Remove the ham hocks from the pan, discard the skin, dice the ham into small pieces and return it to the stock. Add the black-eyed peas, onion, red pepper and thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper; serve immediately.