In welcoming in a new year and a new decade, it’s only right that I indulge in an old tradition: Eating black-eye peas. Since my head is throbbing from last night’s activities, I’ll spare you all my usual witty repartee (I don’t think I can come up with witty repartee anyway). Here’s a blurb about the mighty black-eye pea from good-ole’ Wiki:
Eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is thought to bring prosperity.
The “good luck” traditions of eating black eyed peas at Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, are recorded in the Babylonian Talmud (compiled ~500 CE), Horayot 12A: “Abaye [d. 339 CE] said, now that you have established that good-luck symbols avail, you should make it a habit to see Qara (bottle gourd), Rubiya (black-eyed peas, Arabic Lubiya), Kartei (leeks), Silka (either beets or spinach), and Tamrei (dates) on your table on the New Year.” However, the custom may have resulted from an early mistranslation of the Aramaic word rubiya (fenugreek)…
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.
These “good luck” traditions supposedly date 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 couldn’t carry away. At that time, Northerners considered “field peas” and field corn suitable only for animal fodder, and didn’t steal or destroy these humble foods.
Mmmm… fatback. I’ll need plenty of fatback today to cure the swelling pain. Cheers to all of those who partake in the annual black-eye pea tradition. My family’s done it since I can remember, and somehow it seems to set the tone for the beginning of my year.
May you all have a blessed, prosperous New Year!