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Black-eyed Peas on New Year's Day

My Friend Debbie     Rooted in a rich Southern Mississippi heritage, our family has always had a tradition of serving black-eyed peas and rice every New Year's Day. My mother has cooked up a pot of the southern delicacy on the first day of the New Year for as long as I can remember, and her mother did the same thing for as long as she can remember. I have precious, vivid memories of serving black-eyed peas, turnip greens and chicken and dumpling out of my Grandmother's stoneware bowls around a table of enlivened family members who were getting together for the holidays.

     No one knows exactly how the tradition started, but everyone knows you can't break tradition, or it just wouldn't be right. Different variations of the tradition are common throughout our extended family and friends. Some serve black-eyed peas with pork chops, some serve black-eyed peas with a ham-hock, and still others make sure they add turnip greens and cornbread to the menu because the "green" is their way of saying they hope they have plenty of "green bucks" for the upcoming new year.

     For certain, somewhere along the way, I'm sure these things were done for good luck, and although none of us are superstitious, we still think it's fun to continue memories and traditions that tie our family together in a bond of love and belonging.

     My children now expect to have black-eyed peas the first day of every New Year. For us, we save the ham bone (with a little extra meat on it) from our Christmas meal. We pull it out of the freezer on New Year's Day and put it in the pot of dried beans that have been soaking in water overnight. We add a little salt and simmer it on low for several hours that day, until we are all ready to cook up some rice and Johnny Cakes (corn muffin pancakes) and of course, some sweet, iced-tea.

     The 1 lb bag of dried black-eyed peas cost only about $1.29 at the grocery store, and makes enough for our family of nine to eat more than one meal. In addition, it provides a great source of beneficial nutrients like iron, protein and fiber. I like the convenience with the way it mostly cooks itself. With multiple benefits like this, no wonder it has become a lasting tradition down through the generations.

Happy New Year!

Copyright © 2008-2015 Debbie Reynolds Harper

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