Do you know why black-eyed peas are lucky on New Year's Day? As with most superstitions, there are several answers to the question. Typically, the belief that black-eyed peas are a lucky New Year's meal is especially popular in the south, so it has to do with our history, right? Maybe.
Most Southerners will tell you that it dates back to the Civil War. Black-eyed peas were considered animal food. The peas were not worthy of General Sherman's Union troops. When Union soldiers raided the Confederates food supplies, legend says they took everything except the peas and salted pork. The Confederates considered themselves lucky to be left with those meager supplies, and survived the winter. Peas became symbolic of luck.
Black-eyed peas were also given to slaves, as were most other traditional New Year's foods. Let's face it: a lot of the stuff we eat on New Year's is soul food. One explanation of the superstition says that black-eyed peas were all the southern slaves had to celebrate with on the first day of January, 1863, the day when the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect. From then on, peas were always eaten on the first day of January.
The oldest explanation for this tradition, according to Wikipedia, is that the tradition dates as far ancient Egypt. During the time of the Pharaohs, it was believed that eating a meager food like black-eyed peas showed humility before the gods, and you would be blessed. According to Wikipedia, the Babylonian Talmud, which dates to 339 CE, instructs the faithful Jews to eat black-eyed peas at Rosh Hashana. The belief was similar: those who ate black-eyes showed their humility and saved themselves from the wrath of God.
Hoppin' John is a popular way to prepare your New Year's black-eyed-peas. I've made mine in the crock pot and love the way they taste.
- 1 pound dry black eyed peas, soaked overnight
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 pound smoked sausage, sliced
- 1 cup wild rice, uncooked
- 1 (10.5-ounce) can Rotel diced tomatoes and green chiles
- 1 can diced jalapenos
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
Use a 6-quart slow cooker. Soak your beans overnight in a bunch of water and drain well in the morning and rinse in cool water. Put the beans directly into your slow cooker.
Once the beans are in the crock, add broth and sliced sausage. Stir in the rice, tomatoes and jalapenos. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 12 hours, or until the beans are soft. Stir well before serving.
I love this dish - and not just on New Year's Day but any day we need a hearty and tasty dinner. Do you have a favorite Hoppin' John recipe?