Black-Eyed Peas for New Year's Luck: A Southern Tradition With No Fergalicious

The black-eyed pea--more of a legume, really--has

a lonnng history of good luck, starting with the bible (i.e. Jewish New Year),

then migrating to Africa and then to the U.S. in the 1600s with the slave

trade. This staple crop of the south hit the big time during the Civil War,

when Northern soldiers destroyed everything else growing on rural

farms. So for the past 400 or so years, black-eyed peas have been a nourishing

symbol of a lucky, prosperous new year for those beneath the Mason-Dixon


My very organic mother suddenly becomes a Southerner every

year when she cooks a giant pot of vegetarian black-eyed peas (she was born in

West Palm--hardly Loretta Lynn). Growing up, I always thought this myth of good luck was a ruse to

get me to eat yet another bean-based, health dish, but it's legit.

In their most traditional form, black-eyed peas are cooked with a ham hock (or

other pork product) and served with Southern delicacies like collard

greens (representing money) and corn bread. Hoppin' John also is a contender for representing the pea at its best. In short,

they're inexpensive, high in fiber and hold up well to hot sauce.

So if you need a little luck for 2011, and can't find a restaurant to serve

you the little buggers on New Year's Day, I share with you my mother's semi-authentic [albeit vegetarian] recipe below. Add bacon if you like being



2 cups dried black-eyed peas

4 cups water

2 bay leaves

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

½ green pepper, chopped

½ red pepper, chopped

1 plum tomato, chopped

2 TBSP Dry Sherry

2 TBSP Red wine vinegar

2 TBSP Tamari soy


1 Tsp cumin

1 Tsp coriander

salt and pepper to taste


In a large pot, bring black-eyed peas, water and bay leaves

to a boil then let simmer for 1.5 hours. In separate sauce pan, sauté onions, green pepper, red pepper for five minutes,

then add garlic and plum tomato, dry and liquid seasonings. Add black-eyed peas to the pan and simmer for another 20 minutes. 

Be sure to comment with all the money that fell in your lap due to this dish.