Ever since I was a kid, Mom always made sure that the first dinner of the New Year included black-eyed peas. The practice of eating the peas in the South is thought to have begun during the Civil war. We all grew up in the West, so this Southern tradition was something that was new to most of my California friends. But Mom told us that eating the legumes would ensure good luck in the New Year, and we always could use some of that!
Additionally, we were told, if there was spinach cooked in with the peas, we’d have prosperity as well. (I, however, suspected that dear ol’ Mom just added this myth to get us to eat our veggies!) Because they swell when cooked, black eyed-peas represented coins, collard greens or other leafy greens represented paper money.
Today, the luck and prosperity theme is carried out in other newer traditions with corn bread being served with the beans, representing gold, and pork (because pigs forage) symbolize forward motion.
Special tip: IF you have any leftover champagne that’s gone flat — here’s a perfect use for it!
Here’s my recipe for the lucky peas. Happy New Year to you and yours!
Black eye Peas
16oz. bag of dried black eye peas (or 16oz. bag of frozen)
1 cup yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T butter
4 C vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
2 tsp. herbs de provence
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne (red) pepper
1 C dry white wine (or leftover champagne!)
1 cup chopped spinach
Soak the beans in 8 cups of water overnight. If you don’t have the time, rinse dry beans, add 8 cups hot water. Bring to a boil, and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for an hour. If using frozen peas, simply rinse.
Pour beans from water (if using the soak method), rinse and drain. Using a 2-quart saucepan, add butter and onion. Sauté over medium heat until soft – about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté another 2 minutes.
Return peas to the pot, add broth, bay leaf, herbs salt and pepper. Simmer gently with lid tilted over low heat for 1-1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
Add white wine and spinach, and simmer for another 5 minutes, remove bay leaf, then serve.
Makes 8 to 12 side-dish servings.
Happy New Year!