Black Eyed Peas And Cabbage For New Years – Why?
In the many years that I have been eating solid food, I have always had black-eyed peas and cabbage on New Year's Day. Why do we eat those foods? If you said for "good luck" I would have to reply, duh! Where did the tradition start?
Some say the idea of eating black-eyed peas on New Year's started at the time of the Civil War.
Peas were considered animal food and not fit for Union soldiers. That meant peas were the only food that was left for the Confederate forces and families to eat. These Southerners considered themselves lucky to have a meal of peas and salt pork in the dead of winter.
Other sources trace the eating of peas back to the Egyptians. At the time of the Pharaohs, it was considered a sign of humility before the gods to eat such a lowly food. I always ate black-eyed peas because my mom told me to and they are delicious.
What about Cabbage? Most people will tell you they eat cabbage or collard greens to ensure prosperity. The green leaves represent money. The real truth is closer to this. Cabbage and collard greens are late crops. That means, especially in the south, they would be plentiful and ready for harvest in early January. Fresh veggies meant good nutrition.
The ancient Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Romans ate cabbage. They ate it to ward off disease and aid digestion. If you've ever eaten cabbage you know about that digestion part.
In many parts of the country, especially the south, the black-eyed pea, cabbage, rice, consortium will be combined in a dish called Hoppin John. Okay, it's mainly rice and peas but you can throw in the cabbage as a side dish if you're so inclined.
Hoppin John is one of those dishes that can be made well ahead. In fact, it's probably a good idea that you do make it ahead. This will allow time for your dried peas to soak and the rice to soak up all the flavor of the potlicker. Yeah, that's another southern term too.
So soak up a mess of peas and cook down some cabbage and steam some rice for New Year's Day and let's celebrate in true southern style. Here's to good luck, good fortune, prosperity, and a wonderful new year that we can all share together.
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