I suppose all mothers fill their children with superstitions of how to find luck. Picking four leaf clovers, letting tiny red spiders run across your hand, picking up pennies (or not picking up pennies, depending on the side facing you…or the cleanliness of the location in which is was found…if it were MY child), or saying “white rabbits” to all the corners of your room before uttering your first words on the first day of each month to bring a lucky month. What, your mother didn’t teach you that?
My well traveled, texas native, and kitchen-commanding mother also raised me eating black eyed peas on new years day. The peas, that swell when cooked, represent prosperity for the coming year and bring good fortune. Today, this is primarily a tradition in the South, some accounts laying its beginnings in Georgia and spreading west, becoming popular in texas because of the abundance of the crop. I think it’s probably for this reason that the peas are commonly served with collard greens, to represent luck in money in the coming year, and pork (generally bacon or ham hock) because of something about pigs foraging forward, representing forward progress…but that begins to get a little far fetched for me.
Black-Eyed peas are the epitome of comfort food for me. They mean the close of a holiday season, the opening of a new year, apparently filled with promise once we’ve downed our spicy stew, and the coming together of family one last time before everyone returns to real life that January inevitably brings.
Today I made black-eyed peas. I don’t know if it should be called black-eyed pea soup, or stew, it seems to need a qualifier but i’ve never used one. I used this recipe, with a few alterations, obviously, listed below. I made my own kicked up jalapeño cheddar cornbread and it was absolutely delicious. After the marathon of holiday baking, photographing, documenting and all around merriment getting the food on the table was really as much as i could contemplate. I’m sorry not to include a photo but I will admit while the meal was fantastic, presentability really wasn’t its strong suit. And so for the time being I can offer only my family’s christmas card which, no matter how many times I look at it, I find hysterical.
May your 2012 be prosperous, plentiful, and lucky.
F+T Alterations to The Neelys Black Eyed Peas with Bacon and Pork
1. Roast 1 jalapeño on a burner and dice. Add when onions and garlic are browned.
2. De-stem and slice one bunch collard greens into wide strips. Add about 45 minutes before serving (or shortly after the peas are added)
3. Use 1 less cup water than called for, or remove even a bit more for a thicker stew.
4. Just before serving scoop out a ladle or two of beans (try to avoid the meat and greens as much as possible). Blend until smooth and return to the pot. This will help thicken your soup/stew.