Growing up we always had to eat the same meal on New Year’s day. I thought it was gross, but I had to have a ‘no thank you’ helping anyway. I was raised in California by Texans, who told me it was a southern tradition to give good luck. I didn’t buy it until one awful year. What is this meal you ask? Black Eyed Peas, and Corn bread.
A little history behind this southern tradition. As with many southern traditions, this one goes back to the antebellum south, specifically to the slaves. The slaves in the south did not get the best food, and even then; they didn’t get lots of it. For some reason January 1st, was always the day the slave owners felt a little more generous. The ‘lucky’ slaves would get extra pieces of bacon, some black eyed peas, extra butter and greens, and a whole day off. Now anyone who has bought their own groceries knows none of these (except maybe bacon) cost much anyway! Way to be generous people owning people. (please read the sarcasm dripping there). Among the slaves, there was a belief that if you ate black eyed peas, you would get a years worth of luck, and if you had collard greens you could even get rich. Many thought if they were able to eat black eyed peas , their families would stay together, and I read an account of a former slave saying she heard if you had collard greens, you might be able to get your freedom. I’m not sure when it became a ‘southern’ thing, and not a ‘slave’ thing, but that is the historical background on black eyed peas.
Side note, there are many families (including mine) that have since used corn bread instead of collard greens as the ‘get rich’ part of the meal. I have no idea when that became a thing, or if it is just what you had on hand when new years came to be.
So back to my family’s tradition. When I was 12 my family finally listened to me! They said it was just a tradition, with no real merit behind it. I don’t remember what we had instead, but my family had finally come to it’s senses and realized it’s just a stupid superstition. Well, that year was not a great year. My mom got diagnosed with breast cancer and would need chemo, my parents also had some marital trouble (I believe it started before the diagnosis), I had a lot of trouble with school and friends (which at 12 is huge!), and my brother also had trouble with school (and I believe started smoking, which in that year he didn’t think was bad but almost 20 years later not so great). Well, you say, anyone could have a bad year. The next year we had heaps of black eyed peas, and my mom got the all clear from her doctor, my parents started fixing things (for the record today is their 48th wedding anniversary), and school got better for both my brother and I. So, I think all in all the message was clear. EAT THE BLACK EYED PEAS!
I have now had black eyed peas every year since! Including the one time I was in Disneyland and brought a bag of peas with me. I didn’t know how to make them yet, so I tried to just put some in water and microwave it at the hotel. Don’t do that. It was so gross! But, every year I have had my peas!
Here is how I fix mine. Everyone does it a little different, so if you change it up, oh well.
- 1 bag of black eyed peas (or fresh ones already in water)
- 2 cups of vegetable broth (can also use chicken)
- 1/2 an onion diced
- 3-5 strips of Bacon cut into 1 inch pieces (uncooked)
- 3-6 stalks of celery diced
- 2 Tbs garlic powder
- 1 Tbs liquid smoke
- 1 Tbs paprika
- On New years Eve, soak your peas overnight. If you have the fresh ones, or you have frozen ones, you can skip this step
- In a crock pot, put in all the ingredients mix together.
- Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
- make Corn bread (however you want).
- Serve by putting the peas over a slice of corn bread. My husband and I also enjoy a bit of hot sauce on the beans when served 🙂