Many people turn up their noses at black-eyed peas, but I am not one of them. If properly cooked, they add a different and unusual taste to your traditional flavor profile. While I don’t eat them regularly, I always eat them on January 1, because the tradition goes that it will bring you good fortune. Sheila has been force-feeding me these legumes since we got married and I can say with some degree of certainty that I have been blessed with having Nurse Ratched’s clone in my life for more than 40 years.
Now many people think that eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is a southern tradition, but according to the New York Times, this is a tradition that has deep roots in the Middle East. So, start soaking those peas tonight and look forward to a most prosperous 2015.
For good fortune in the New Year, a plate of black-eyed peas is considered auspicious, especially in the American South. Believe it or don’t. For many, consuming this frugal dish on the first day of the year is said to augur wealth.
Of course, there’s a back story.
Sephardic Jews were evidently eating black-eyed peas for good luck on Rosh Hashana centuries ago, and the custom eventually traveled with them to America. (We think of beans as purely New World, along with tomatoes, chiles and potatoes, but legumes like field peas, chickpeas and lentils have been Old World staples since biblical times.)
Black-eyed peas also arrived in Florida and the Caribbean, carried by African slaves. Just as African seasoning influenced Creole cooking, so black-eyed peas became part of the wider culture.