New Year’s Day. Odds are good you’re like me today: a little sleep deprived, a bit hung over, and optimistic about the new year. Who doesn’t want the next 365 to start off right from Day 1?
That’s why I always serve black-eyed peas on January 1.
While I grew up a native Texan, my parents originated in Illinois, the heartland. My husband’s family, which stretches back through the Lone Star State for about five generations, taught me about this Southern culinary trifecta: greens (to promote wealth), cornbread (for health), and black-eyed peas (ensuring luck and prosperity).
Unadorned, black-eyed peas taste, well, blah. Their history, though, is fascinating. According to the Library of Congress, Northern soldiers spared the crop during the Civil War because they figured those nondescript beans [yep; black-eyed “peas” are actually legumes] were livestock feed. What those Yankees didn’t know was that, with the right cooking, “cowpeas” are perfectly good people food and a proud component of traditional West African cuisine.
Years ago, while planning a potluck New Year’s Eve dinner, I found the best recipe for delicious black-eyed peas. Over time, I modified this “dip” to fit our taste and it’s become a staple–not only on New Year’s Day but at most family gatherings.
But no matter how often we’ve eaten black-eyed peas throughout the previous 12 months, I’d never allow my loved ones to start a new year without this hearty spoonful of luck.
In case you haven’t had your black-eyed peas yet, here’s that recipe.
Happy New Year!
Best Black-Eyed Peas
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
4 16-ounce cans black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1 bunch of green onions, tops and bottoms, chopped
canned pickled jalapeños, chopped (to taste)
In a microwave safe large bowl, melt the stick of butter. Fold in the cheese; stir; heat a bit more. Stir in the black-eyed peas; add onions and jalapeños to taste, mixing well. Heat thoroughly. Serve with crackers, bread, or spoons.
Mixes well with cooked greens, too. And cornbread.