The eating of the humble legume, to bring you good luck in the coming year, began in the south, and is now a common New Year's Eve and Day item on menus around the world. As with all regional cooking, there are variation....both in legends and cooking methods.
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 first food to be eaten on New Year's Day for luck and prosperity throughout the year ahead.
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.
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.
During the week of Thanksgiving, I posted several menus and notes from my friends at Smithfield Foods. Today, I received this via their email weekly menu plans and recipes. If you love pork, ham and bacon, go to smithfield.com and sign up for their blog.
Good Luck Soup
• 2 (10 ounce) packages Smithfield Country
Ham and End Slices (can substitute 2 cups
any leftover ham), roughly chopped
• 1 pound Black Eyed Peas, rinsed and soaked
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
• 2 cloves garlic
• 1 tablespoon ham base
• 5 dashes hot sauce
• 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
• 1 teaspoon dried oregano
• Vegetable stock (64 ounce) (can substitute
• 1 cup water
• 1/2 pound collards, cut into thin ribbons
• pepper to taste
Steps: In a large stock pot add olive oil. Stir in onions,
garlic, ham base, hot sauce, thyme and oregano. Saute
until onions are translucent. Add drained black eyed
peas, vegetable stock, water and chopped ham. Simmer
until peas are tender. Approximately 40-50 minutes. Add
collards and simmer an additional 20 to 30 minutes.
Pepper to taste. Serve hot.
Don't forget the cornbread and lots of butter!