Tonawanda News

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December 31, 2012

Enjoy good luck with black eyed peas

Tonawanda News — In just a couple days we’ll all be celebrating a New Year many of us thought would never come. Whew, good thing those Mayans had it all wrong.

Perhaps we’re still around to acknowledge this because I ate my black eyed peas last New Year’s Day.

It’s a long-standing tradition in the South to enjoy a bowl (or just a bite if you’re a finicky 4-year-old) of piping hot black eyed peas on New Year’s Day for good luck to last the entire year. It’s such a prevalent tradition — at least in Texas — that many restaurants offer the little two-toned peas for free to attract customers.

Some eat the dish as a side to perhaps a larger meal, but in my family, black eyed peas have always been the main attraction of the meal we enjoy while sitting down to the Rose Bowl.

Bubbling away on the stove with a hefty dose of onion and salt pork gives the dish a heartier taste, and though I never appreciated them as a child, I sometimes get the urging to prepare them even when it’s not the inaugural day on the calendar.

I never really thought about why it is black eyed peas are considered lucky — indeed I didn’t realize it was a Southern thing for a long time — until some friends from Buffalo came to visit me one New Year’s when I was living in Denton, Texas. 

I had plans to make them the typical New Year’s spread, complete with cornbread and stalks of green onion to be eaten straight and raw. They asked about how the tradition started and some Googling led us to a couple explanations.

Wikipedia tells us black eyed peas symbolize prosperity because they swell when they cook. So, would any bean or pea work then?

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