Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Black-eyed Peas

by Linda Farmer Harris

All of the Thanksgiving and Christmas festivities are behind us, and it's time to plan the event that welcomes in 2017.

What's your favorite traditional New Year's Eve meal? Jerry and I always serve a bowl of black-eyed peas with corn bread.
Black-eyed Peas and Cornbread
Our family in Arkansas serves Hoppin' John, a basic, simple stew with ham hock, onion, salt and pepper served over rice or collard greens. Of course, you can gussy it up with garlic, celery, red and green bell peppers. Or use Kielbasa or other meat.

I've heard several theories about the name—some that it originated locally and some had a more exotic origin.  I like the theory that it's an Englishized version of pois a pigeon, French for pigeon peas. Still doesn't fit Hoppin' John, does it! But it's served with the blessing of good fortune for the coming year, so it's all good.

We haven't gone so far as to eat one pea for every day in the new year, as is the tradition of some, but we do serve it on occasion throughout the year. That may count toward getting 365 peas eaten before 2018.

Considering black-eyed peas luck goes back to the legend that the town of Vicksburg, Mississippi ran out of food while under attack during the Civil War. The town folks discovered a stash of black-eyed peas and forever after considered them lucky.

It seems each culture has its lucky foods. A few examples:
> Spain—one grape for each stroke of the clock for each month of the new year
> Danish—stewed kale
> Germans—sauerkraut (cabbage) and roast pork and sausages
> U.S. southern states—collard greens-more greens eaten the larger the fortune
> Brazil—lentil soup
> Japan—sweet black beans called kuro-mame
> Cuba, Hungary, Austria—pork or miniature pigs made of marzipan
> Sweden—pig's feet
> Holland, Hungary, Greece, Norway—cakes and other baked delights

Yes, there are some foods considered unlucky.
> Lobster—they move backward & that signifies setbacks and regression
> Chicken—they scratch backward signifying regret or dwelling in the past

What's your favorite New Year's Eve food?


Turning Tidbits of History into Unforgettable Stories

Lin and her husband, Jerry, live on a ranch in Chimney Rock, Colorado. She writes historical fiction for adults and children. Her latest series is Voices in the Desert and Book 1 is Treasure Among the Ruins.

Santa Fe, New Mexico, May 1926—Cordelia Moulton searches for self-identity and finds that love is as sure as the spring grass under the winter snowflakes.

Treasure Among the Ruins, Book 1, Voices in the Desert Series is available in e-book for the holiday season at Amazon.com.

Read more about the Southwestern Indian Detours in her HH&H posts:

1926 Bucket List — http://www.hhhistory.com/search?q=1926+bucket+list

Southwestern Indian Detours (Part I) — http://christianfictionhistoricalsociety.blogspot.com/2013/06/southwestern-indian-detours-by-linda.html

Southwestern Indian Detours (Part II) — http://christianfictionhistoricalsociety.blogspot.com/2013/07/southwestern-indian-detours-part-ii.html

Her novella, The Lye Water Bride, is included in the California Gold Rush Romance Collection (Barbour Publishing, August 2016)


  1. Linda, like you and Jerry, we always have to have black eyed peas on New Year's Day as well as cabbage. Even though I am the only one that likes cabbage, my crew will take a tiny taste...just got to have it!

    1. Hi Melanie, we added cabbage this year with ham from the hog we had butchered. We don't raise hogs, but a neighbor does so we purchased one. Talk about a taste difference! Well, we're keeping cabbage/ham as part of our new year's fare.

  2. Linda, I usually have something with ham and then add a cabbage dish to the meal. I do enjoy black eyed peas, so maybe I need to add that this year. Thank you for sharing. Have a wonderful New Year filled with blessings.

    1. Hi Marilyn, you're welcome. I enjoyed researching this post. I put New Mexico Hatch chilies in one of the pots. I wanted to try them, but they're very spicy so I dipped some peas out to try it. Yum. After folks tried it, I almost didn't get a serving for myself. Hope you new year is marvelous.

  3. I married into a southern family and was introduced to black eyed peas, ham and cornbread for New Year's day. My mother-in-law also included spinach greens, that supposedly meant getting money during the year. A fun tradition. My MIL has been gone over 15 years, and we live in NH but we still eat our traditional meal.

    1. Hi Linda, I love family traditions, especially when it involves food! We live at 6,089 ft. so I've had an adventure learning to cook and bake. Corn bread was first on my list followed by pop-overs. Finally mastered the baking using flour with 4 grams of protein. Didn't know that mattered until we moved from Texas to Colorado. Have a great new year.

  4. Lin, We almost always have black-eyed peas with ham for New Year's Day dinner. I also fixed fried potatoes with onions, sometimes cooked cabbage, and always cornbread. Mmm....makes my mouth water.

    1. Hi Vickie, love fried potatoes with onions. Add bacon to the cornbread and we're all set. My only concession is unsalted butter, but that's it! Have a wonderful new year.

  5. Cabbage - a big pot of it. Mom always put a silver dime in it, too. The one who scooped up the dime would be prosperous in the new year. It worked in getting us kids to eat cabbage, we all wanted the dime. I love it now, and my husband always cooks a big pot.

    1. Hi Janet, never heard of the silver dime in the cabbage pot. I asked neighbors and our Scottish friend said they do that! No trouble eating cabbage in our family, but I might try that next year in the brussel sprouts.