It’s quiet here in the empty but not tenebrific offices of the Curmudgeon, as I have generously given the staff the first day of the New Year off. I’ll be heading to the homestead soon to prepare the traditional New Years good-luck food, black-eyed peas. I mentioned this while on the phone to my Canuck friend, who responded, “What are black-eyed peas?”
Shocked, I was. I appreciated this question however, imprimus because I like talking to my Canuck friend, and furthermore, because it made me contemplate the matter, that is, speaking culturally, what’s up with that “black-eyed peas good luck on New Years day” thing?
Ahh. To explain black-eyed peas to the unenlightened is a joyous thing, but of course I pretended to be miffed and irritated since that is my shtick. So pay attention, class. I’m only going to say this once.
Black-Eyed Peas 101:
This legume that looks like a small, tan-colored bean with a black spot in the center, is sometimes simply called a “field pea,” of which the black-eyed pea is the most common variety. They are considered good luck in many parts of the US, but especially in the South—wherefrom I hale, and are traditionally consumed on New Years Day to bring luck throughout the year.
These legumes are often accompanied by either hog jowls or ham, such as a hock, cooked in with the beans. As much as I vociferously cling to and celebrate southern traditions, hog jowls I do not do. Nor pigs feet, chitins, tripe, or any other offending trifle that the poor and desolate have been forced consume from necessity and somehow got it into their malnutritioned minds that it was good. Ham hocks are another matter, and add tremendous flavor suitable for…uh…I don’t know…Minnie Pearl or someone.
History tells us that black-eyed peas and other legumes have been considered good luck in many cultures for ions. The hog, and thus its meat, is believed to be lucky because it represents prosperity. In some regions, rice is a lucky food that is eaten on New Year’s Day. Many cultures consume cabbage on New Year’s, as it is also a sign of prosperity and good luck follows since the leaves resemble and represent paper currency. So lay some cabbage on me so I can buy some black-eyed peas and ham hocks.
Serving Suggestion: Use a Spoon
And that is everything I know about eating black-eyed peas on New Years Day, except that my family always had them on the first day of the year, and I continue that tradition today. Besides, when made from real beans (not canned) and slow-cooked with a couple of ham hocks and some chopped onion, they are scrumptious! I’ll also be serving an appetizer of homemade vegetable soup with stock made from a large Sirloin roast bone, and then the main course of barbecued ribs, the black-eyed peas, and a big salad with lots of stuff in it!
And don’t forget cornbread! Here’s the trick to cooking cornbread. Ya gotta have an iron skillet. This is paramount. You fry up one slice of bacon and remove it from the skillit, but leave the grease. Then you pour the cornbread batter into the hot skillit. Hear that sizzle? Ya gotta have the sizzle. Then cook it normally in the oven. You can sprinkle that slice of crispy bacon over the black-eyed peas when you serve. Come on over for dinner!
Many might see such a meal as causing gaseousness and wonder if the black-eyed peas really do bring good luck. Hmmm…Interesting questions both. I’ll let you know about the gas thing later, after I study the situation. As for “do they bring good luck,” thinking back on past New Years…umm…no…apparently not–if one can judge by me–for if I didn’t have bad luck I’d have no luck at all.
And yet, I “chew on” with this ridiculous gastronomic charade, passing gas copiously and having bad luck. Oh well, at least dinner will taste good, and if you come over the company will be nonpareil. You can bring the wine. But what kind of wine to bring?
I Don’t Want Whine With That
I think the wine should accompany the ribs, so how about a nice Cabernet or Shiraz or Merlot. Something nice and hardy and rich with deep woodsy flavors and a spicy nose. It has to stand up to the flavorful meat and sauce.
Maybe pick up a blend, perhaps a Hardy’s triple blend that has all three. It’s easier than deciding. That will cut the heaviness of the Shiraz, too, which will enable us to drink more. I actually like the blends. No wine “aesthete” am I. When asked what type of wine you should drink with what foods, I say, “whatever you like.”
So I’ll expect you at 8:00 or thereabouts, as I am not particularly impressed with promptness. We’ll enjoy a nice, country, rustic meal, or call it “French Farmhouse Cooking” if you prefer. As for the after-effects, I think I’ll light some beeswax candles.