I woke early this morning – the first day of 2013 – to put a large pot of black-eyed peas on the fire. Actually, I woke early because I have a four year and she was hungry, but I was up early nonetheless and I got a jumpstart on my cooking. Coming from the south, black-eyed peas have been a New Years Day staple for as long as I can remember. It is believed that eating them helps ensure luck in the coming year. I always forget where this belief originated so today I looked it up.
Here is what Wikipedia has to say about the lucky new year food -
Eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is thought to bring prosperity in the Southern United States.
The “good luck” traditions of eating black-eyed peas at Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, are recorded in the Babylonian Talmud (compiled ~500 CE), Horayot 12A: “Abaye [d. 339 CE] said, now that you have established that good-luck symbols avail, you should make it a habit to see qara(bottle gourd), rubiya (black-eyed peas, Arabic lubiya), kartei (leeks), silka (either beets or spinach), and tamrei (dates) on your table on the New Year.” However, the custom may have resulted from an early mistranslation of the Aramaic word rubiya (fenugreek).
A parallel text in Kritot 5B states one should eat these symbols of good luck. The accepted custom (Shulhan Aruh Orah Hayim 583:1, 16th century, the standard code of Jewish law and practice) is to eat the symbols. This custom is followed by Sephardi and Israeli Jews to this day.
In the United States, the first Sephardi Jews arrived in Georgia in the 1730s, and have lived there continuously since. The Jewish practice was apparently adopted by non-Jews around the time of the American Civil War.
Another suggested beginning of the tradition dates back to the Civil War, when Union troops, especially in areas targeted by General William Tecumseh Sherman, typically stripped the countryside of all stored food, crops, and livestock, and destroyed whatever they could not carry away. At that time, Northerners considered “field peas” and field corn suitable only for animal fodder, and did not steal or destroy these humble foods.
In the Southern United States, the peas are typically cooked with a pork product for flavoring (such as bacon, ham bones, fatback, or hog jowl), diced onion, and served with a hot chili sauce or a pepper-flavored vinegar.
The traditional meal also includes collard, turnip, or mustardgreens, and ham. The peas, since they swell when cooked, symbolize prosperity; the greens symbolize money; the pork, because pigs root forward when foraging, represents positive motion.Cornbread also often accompanies this meal.
Interestingly, I am from the South and my husband is Jewish (Ashkenazi though, not Sephardic). He only knows the black-eyed pea tradition from his travels, but since we have been together we have made it a tradition in our home. Yesterday, he was kind enough to travel to three grocery stores until he found some organic dried black-eyed peas for us. I guess a lot of people are looking for luck in the new year.
I typically follow a traditional foods diet with a paleo influence so I don’t eat too many beans or legumes throughout the year, but today is an exception. I really enjoy our black-eyed pea tradition from soaking the peas the night before to waking to prepare them and then enjoying them with family and friends throughout the first day of the new year. It’s a reminder and an opportunity to be mindful and intentional. It’s a time when we collectively seem more open to new possibilities.
Over the years I’ve prepared them in a variety of ways and it really doesn’t take much to cook a delicious pot of peas. Here is a recipe I discovered ten years ago and I continue to enjoy it year after year. It comes from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. Enjoy!
Black-Eyed Beans, Persian Style
- 6 cups basic black-eyed beans (pre-soaked for 12-24 hours)
- 4-5 bunches chard, washed and chopped
- 2 bunches green onions, finely chopped
- 1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
- 1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4-5 dried limes (available at Middle Eastern markets) or grated rind and juice of 3 fresh limes
Saute green onions, parsley and cilantro in butter and olive oil, stirring constantly. Remove to a casserole. Saute onion and add to parsley mixture. If you are using dried limes, open up and remove the seeds and membranes. Add dried limes (including skins) or lime juice and rind, cooked beans (with their juices) and chopped chard to casserole. Cover and simmer about 20 minutes.
Happy New Year everyone. May 2013 open you to even more love, light and joy than you knew was possible!