Monday, December 28, 2009

Black-eyed Peas for Prosperity in the New Year!


Growing up my family ALWAYS ate black-eyed peas on New Year's day. For those of you not from the South, folk wisdom holds that eating black-eyed peas brings the eater luck (especially financially) in the coming year. My mom strictly enforced this tradition, and because I love beans and weird traditions, I've continued the practice in my home.

Despite my many years of black-eyed pea eating, I never knew the reason behind this tradition, so I turned to google. It seems this tradition, referenced in the Talmud, was brought to the Southern US by Sephardic Jews in the 1700s. The tradition expanded beyond the Jewish community shortly after the Civil War.

The peas are said to represent coins ($$$). They are often cooked with greens, which are said to represent dollars ($$$) and served with cornbread, which represents gold ($$$)! Given the current financial situation I think black-eyed peas are in tall order - they are also nutrient rich and quite affordable, so have some peas and have a Happy New Year!!!

Simple Tasty Black-eyed Peas:
1 pound black-eyed peas, soaked in water overnight
1 Large yellow onion, diced
1 Green bell pepper, diced
4 Cloves garlic, minced
3 Bay leaves
Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil (or some pork fat, this is more "traditional" in the South, though I'm guessing that part of the traditions didn't come from the Jewish emigres)
Water or broth

In a medium stockpot, saute the onions, pepper, and garlic in some olive oil (couple tablespoons) over medium-low heat until the onions are translucent. Drain the soaked peas, add them and the bay leaves to the pot, stir to combine with the onion mixture - cook stirring frequently for 5 minutes. Add enough water or broth to cover the beans, cover pot and let beans simmer on low heat until the peas are very tender, about an hour and a half. Season with salt and pepper once beans are nearly done (adding the salt too soon is said to toughen the peas skins).

**If desired add some chopped collard greens after an hour.

Serve warm with cornbread. Hope this brings you luck, if nothing else it will make your tummy happy :).

P.S. At home the grocery stores always ran out of black-eyed peas around New Year's, probably not such a big deal everywhere, but you might want to get some soon if you want them for New Year's Day!

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