Monday, December 31, 2007
A Southern Tradition
Tomorrow, Stephen (aka Yankee Boy since he ate Ritz Crackers with his chili the other night) and I will partake of an old Southern tradition. We will eat black eyed peas on New Year's Day. Usually I make a big ol' pot of black eyed pea soup. That way I can add some tomatoes, cumin, onion and what ever else suits my fancy in order to give the peas a little flavor since they don't have much of their own. Dried peas are starchy and bland but contain a fair amount of protein and, like all legumes, are often used as a meat replacement.
This year, I asked Stephen to pick up some peas at the store and he brought back a couple of cans since that is what he saw first. That's OK with me. We never eat all the soup and I end up throwing a lot of it out. Anyway, with canned peas I can make Texas Caviar. This means that I drained the peas and added red and green onions, read and green sweet peppers, some red wine vinegar and really good olive oil along with a little salt and pepper. It is now marinating in the fridge overnight and will be a quick and easy side dish tomorrow.
The tradition of eating black eyed peas on New Year's Day dates back to the Depression. It was said that if you still had peas by the first of the year, you were lucky. Some traditionalist insist on adding turnip greens and cornbread to make the meal complete but I have always settled for the peas. I make cornbread if I make the soup. You just have to have something to soak up the juice.
A man who lived in the town in which I grew up had been a young man during the Depression. Until the day he died, he said that he always tipped his hat to a pea patch because peas kept him and his family from starving to death during those hard years.
Tomorrow we will eat the peas because it is a tradition and because it is said that to do so brings good luck during the coming year. We will be reminded that there have been times when people in this country were not as fortunate as we are now and we will be grateful for our peas and for everything else we have. Mostly, we will be grateful for each other.
Photo of peas from http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www1.istockphoto.com/file_thumbview_approve/547632/2/istockphoto_547632_black_eyed_peas.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.istockphoto.com/file_closeup/%3Fid%3D547632%26refnum%3D315636&h=304&w=380&sz=64&hl=en&start=2&um=1&tbnid=bG0WH1mvckhQhM:&tbnh=98&tbnw=123&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dblack%2Beyed%2Bpeas%2Bplants%26svnum%3D10%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26rls%3DGGLG,GGLG:2005-47,GGLG:en%26sa%3DN