Eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is thought to bring prosperity.
We always start the New Year off with a big pot of Blackeyed Peas and cornbread (the way my Mama made it). Here is some food for thought on this southern tradition and it’s origins.
The “good luck” traditions of eating black-eyed peas at Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, are recorded in the Babylonian Talmud.
In the United States, the first Sephardi Jews arrived in Georgia in the 1730s, and have lived there continuously since. The Jewish practice was apparently adopted by non-Jews around the time of the American Civil War.
In the Southern United States, the peas are typically cooked with a pork product for flavoring (such as bacon, ham bones, fatback, or hog jowl), diced onion, and served with a hot chili sauce or a pepper-flavored vinegar.
The traditional meal also features collard, turnip, or mustard greens, and ham. The peas, since they swell when cooked, symbolize prosperity; the greens symbolize money; the pork, because pigs root forward when foraging, represents positive motion. Cornbread also often accompanies this meal.
Another suggested origin of the tradition dates back to the Civil War, when Union troops, especially in areas targeted by General William Tecumseh Sherman, typically stripped the countryside of all stored food, crops, and livestock, and destroyed whatever they could not carry away. At that time, Northerners considered “field peas” and field corn suitable only for animal fodder, and did not steal or destroy these humble foods.
Here’s one recipe for Good Luck.
2 pounds dried black-eyed peas
8 ounces hog jowl or 2 small to medium ham hocks
6 cups water water
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves
salt & black pepper to taste
Pick over the peas and rinse well, then soak in cold water overnight. Place ham hocks or hog jowl in large kettle with water, bring to boil, and cook for 1 1/2 hours. Drain peas and add to the hog jowl. Add whole onion, minced garlic, salt & pepper. Add more water if needed to cover peas. Cover tightly and simmer slowly 2 hours or until peas are tender. Serve with cornbread.
From Lydia Hess – Amber Lotus Designer/Art Director