After my family experienced several years of bad luck, my friend, Martha Cranor, shared a Southern New Year’s tradition with us. She showed up at our door with a huge pot of black-eyed peas and said, “Your luck hasn’t been so great lately. I want you to try this. Do what we do in the South. Eat one black-eyed pea for every year you’ve lived. It will bring you good luck.”
Living in Colorado most of my life, I was unaware of this Southern tradition; so, after Martha’s visit, I investigated the South’s traditional New Year’s Day meal. It consists of ham, corn bread, black-eyed peas, and collard greens. Candied yams or steamed white rice are also often on the menu. Eating ham is thought to bring wealth; and collard greens and black-eyed peas bring good luck and prosperity. Legend has it that black-eyed peas resemble coins and collard greens look like folded greenbacks. Some Southerners are so taken with this custom that they even add a dime or two to their black-eyed peas while they cook, believing this adds an extra dose of good fortune.
Ever since Martha shared this traditional Southern dish with us, I’ve made it every New Year’s Day. Following is my favorite preparation. If you want to add a bit of luck to 2024, try my Lucky Black-Eyed Peas recipe. My family enjoys ringing in the New Year with meaningful traditions shared by a good friend and will take all the good luck we can get.
Wishing you all a Happy, Healthy, Lucky New Year!
New Year’s Day Lucky Black-Eyed Peas
Serves 6 to 8
1 pound fresh or dried black-eyed peas
3 slices bacon
2 cups canned chicken broth
1 cup water
1 can (16-ounces) peeled tomatoes, diced
1 large onion, chopped
3 teaspoons minced garlic
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon large grind black pepper
If using dried, wash peas, cover with water, and soak overnight. In a large kettle, fry bacon over a low heat until browned and crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon and transfer to paper towels to drain. Cool and crumble bacon into bite-size pieces. To the same kettle, add black-eyed peas, crumbled bacon, chicken broth, water, tomatoes, onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Cook slowly, about 2 hours, over low heat. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.
Shopping tip: Most upscale supermarkets carry fresh black-eyed peas in their produce department at the end of December. They package black-eyed peas in 1-pint containers. If you make this recipe, fresh black-eyed peas are superior. My friend, Martha, imports hers from Texas.
Carol Ann Kates is the award-winning author of cookbook, Secret Recipes from the Corner Market and Grocery Shopping Secrets. She’s an expert in how to shop, select, and store produce for maximizing home cooking outcomes and minimizing time and money spent. As a former supermarket and deli operator, Carol Ann shares grocery-insider wisdom—the same expertise you used to receive when patronizing a mom-and-pop establishment. Contact her at CarolAnn@CarolAnnKates.com and explore her website, www.CarolAnnKates.com.
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