According to tradition, this New Year’s Day tradition, southern style, dates back to the Civil War, when Union troops pillaged the land, leaving behind only black-eyed peas and greens as animal fodder.
In the North, Black-eyed Peas were known as “cowpeas” or “field peas”. Cattle ate cowpeas and humans ate only English Peas. Since the North believed that only cattle ate Black-eyed Peas and they had already either taken or eaten all of the cattle, they saw no need to destroy this crop.
At first planted as food for livestock, and later a food staple for slaves in the South, the fields of black-eyed peas were ignored as Sherman's troops destroyed or stole other crops, thereby making the black-eyed pea an important role as a major food source for surviving Confederates.
As one of the few food sources left to sustain the people and the southern soldiers, those black-eyed peas came to represent good fortune.
Today, the tradition of eating black-eyed peas for the New Year has many variations and embellishments. Served with greens, the peas represent coins and the greens represent paper money. In some areas cabbage is used in place of the greens.
Other traditions include:
Cornbread, often served with black-eyed peas and greens, represents gold.
For the best chance of luck every day in the year ahead, one must eat at least 365 black-eyed peas on New Year's Day.
Black-eyed peas eaten with stewed tomatoes represent wealth and health.
Adding a shiny penny or dime to the pot just before serving is another tradition practiced by some. When served, the person whose bowl contains the penny or dime receives the best luck for the New Year, unless of course, the recipient swallows the coin.
Greens and black-eyed peas remain favorites in the southern diet, as reflected in the poem " Soul Food Restaurant" from my book
Reflections of a Mississippi Magnolia -a Life In Poems.
(Reflections Mississippi Magnolia - A Life in Poems -|
Amazon link to purchase)