Most of us who grew up in the south know that eating black-eyed peas on New Years Day is a must, but I found myself this morning asking why…here’s what I found.
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.
- In some areas, actual values are assigned with the black-eyed peas representing pennies or up to a dollar each and the greens representing anywhere from one to a thousand dollars.
- 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. (In the spirit of being responsible with my little guys, we opted for the large Gasparilla coin instead).
New Years Day Soup
3/4 pound ham fully cooked and chopped or cubed
1 medium onion
2 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons butter
1 can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 can great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 can stewed or petite diced tomatoes
3 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 cup potato, peeled and diced
3/4 cup carrots diced
3/4 cup celery diced
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
In a 3-5 quart pot, saute ham, bone, onion and garlic in butter until the onion is tender or translucent. Add all remaining ingredients; cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until veggies are soft. Serve and cheer for whoever finds the coin… 🙂