Why does Paula eat one black-eyed pea for each day of the New Year? We Southerners know that eating black-eyed peas ensures good luck and prosperity throughout the upcoming year. Their shapes loosely resemble coins; but more importantly, they swell as they cook, much as you want your wealth to expand. A coin in the pot promises extra fortune to the one who finds it in his scoop of peas. And a penny is often put under each bowl of peas to boost the luck potential.
Legend tells us also that black-eyed peas became a lucky dish during the Civil War. Union soldiers near the town of Vicksburg, Va. burned all crops except the peas; thinking they were animal feed, the soldiers did not bother them. Residents discovered that the legume was the only thing left to eat; they adapted it into their diet, and black-eyed peas were therefore considered the food of good fortune.
Today, people wouldn’t dream of starting off their year without a good luck pot of black-eyed peas. We like Spicy Black-Eyed Peas with bacon, tomatoes and green chilies, and chili powder for extra kick. Or you can eat them in the South Georgia Caviar Dip or Black-Eyed Pea Salad, but just make sure you get some!
The full Southern treatment for black-eyed peas is Hoppin’ John, a soul food dish cooked with smoked pork and spices and served over rice. Smoked pork means more luck, so a ham hock or hog jowl always flavors the pot.
Best wishes for luck, prosperity, and abundance!