Black-Eyed Peas and Greens, A Southern New Year Tradition by Tara Ambrose of TTOTT

Generally I wander aimlessly each month considering all of the wonderful restaurants we have in our midst who deserve a spot-light, but this month I couldn’t help but focus on a New Year’s tradition that we’ve had in my house since … well, since I could remember.

Not really knowing the whole story behind why it is that those of us in the south eat black-eyed peas and greens (or cabbage) on New Year’s day, I thought what better way to educate myself with the legend and share it with the wonderful readers of Culination Magazine.

Crawfish boudin with braised cabbage.

The Legend of The Black-eyed Peas

Interestingly enough, the story has passed many generations without being told.  Major General William T. Sherman made a bloody march to the sea, better known as the “Savannah Campaign” on November 16, 1864 wherein Sherman’s troops sieged Atlanta, Georgia and marched through to the port of Savannah on December 22, 1864, laying waste, death and destruction in their path.

During the Savannah Campaign, Sherman’s troops looted and pilfered everything their horses and arms could hold, and they ate everything they could wrap their lips around.  This left the people of the south starving and with no monetary capacity to feed their families.  Luckily, Sherman’s troops left several bins of black eyed peas, as these were found to be “unfit” for a Northerner and were typically used as livestock rations.

With the beginning of a new year, the southern people were not only devastated from their epic losses, but had there not been the “luck” of the black-eyed peas, they most certainly would have all starved.  To this day, this is the meaning behind “luck” in the black-eyed peas that we celebrate in our southern heritage.

The Legend of the Greens (or Cabbage)

With much the same type of history, greens and cabbage would have just been coming up out of the ground and ripe for harvesting shortly after the northern troops laid waste to the southern states.

It is with this that the many representations of “greens” are made for New Year’s day meal planning.   Served with a side of cornbread and black-eyed peas, it is thought that the cornbread is a representation of gold, whereas the legumes, represent pennies and the greens have the representation of paper money.  It is also believed in some folk legend that should one opt to stew their peas with tomatoes, this is a representation of wealth and health for the upcoming year ahead.

Black-eyed Pea and Green Recipes

Although I prefer my black-eyed peas cooked down from dry form with a side of cornbread and generous helpings of home-made pepper sauce, there are many different recipes and variations of these dishes that can be molded to fit almost any budget and most certainly almost any set of taste buds – as one can most certainly ascertain from one of my husband’s favorite dishes (photographed) of crawfish boudin and braised cabbage.

It is with the New Year holiday closely upon us that I dug out my Junior League cookbooks and dusted off a few recipes to share with the Culination Magazine readers for the New Year!

Broccoli Corn Bread – Cooking in High Cotton, page 53

½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted

4 eggs, lightly beaten

¾ cup cottage cheese

1/3 cup chopped white onion

1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped broccoli, thawed and drained

1 teaspoon salt

1 (8 ounce) package quick corn muffin mix

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Combine butter, eggs, cottage cheese, onion, broccoli and salt in a bowl and mix well.  Stir in muffin mix.  Pour into a 9×13 inch baking pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the bread tests done.  Cut into squares to serve.  Serves 12.

Good Luck Cabbage Slaw, Celebrations on the Bayou, page 106

1 large head green cabbage, sliced

½ head purple cabbage, chopped

1 small white onion, chopped

1 bunch of green onions, chopped

1 small green bell pepper, chopped

1 ½ cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup yellow mustard

1 Tablespoon wine vinegar

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

1 Tablespoon sugar

1 ½ te4aspoons garlic powder

1 Tablespoon black pepper

Salt to taste

Directions:  In a large bowl combine cabbage, onions, and bell pepper. In another bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients.  Toss with cabbage.  This is best if made the day before.  Serves 10.

Spicy Black-Eyed Pea Dip, Celebrations on the Bayou, page 71

Spicy Black-Eyed Pea Dip

 

Ingredients:

½ bell pepper, finely chopped

2 stalks of celery, finely chopped

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 ½ teaspoons hot pepper sauce to taste

½ cup ketchup

1teaspoon salt

3 chicken bouillon cubes

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon cinnamon

2 15 ounce cans black-eyed peas

1 15 ounce can Rotel tomatoes

1 clove garlic, pressed

1 teaspoon sugar

½ cup bacon drippings

3 tablespoons flour

Directions:

In a medium saucepan, combine bell pepper, celery, onion, black pepper, hot pepper sauce, ketchup, salt, bouillon cubes, nutmeg, and cinnamon.  Over low heat, cook and stir until boiling and the cubes are dissolved completely.  Add peas, tomatoes, garlic, and sugar, and simmer 30 minutes.  Combine bacon drippings with flour and stir into peas.  Cook 10 minutes more.  Adjust seasoning.  Stir well and serve hot with large corn chips.  Makes 4 ½ cups.

From our family to yours, we wish everyone the healthiest and happiest New Year and hope that you will enjoy these recipes and many more with your friends and family during this holiday season.

*Photographed is the “Spicy Black-Eyed Pea Dip” and crawfish boudin with braised cabbage.

 

For more, click: Tara Ambrose and Tara’s Taste of the Town

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