Happy New Year! Black-eyed peas anyone?

With ringing in 2015 in the same city as my mom, I got to indulge in a New Year’s Day tradition: black eyed peas for dinner.

Eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is said to bring happiness and prosperity for the coming year. My mother has prepared black-eyed peas every January 1st for as long as I can remember, but I thought I’d do some research on the history of the tradition and share the details here.

The superstition of eating black-eyed peas is typically associated with the south, and African Americans, but the tradition also has Jewish origins as black-eyed peas are often included as part of the spread for Rosh Hashanah. The Jewish Talmud didn’t originally include black-eyed peas in the list of foods to eat on Rosh Hashanah, but a mistake in translation resulted in their inclusion for the holiday among Sephardic Jews.

Black-eyed peas are typically prepared by simmering, and flavored with onions, garlic, leeks, ham hock or bacon. Some recipes include spicy profiles like cayenne and chili powder, and others remain savory with salt and cumin.

I can’t publish the recipe my mom uses for her black-eyed peas, as it’s a family secret, but here’s a picture of what my bowl looked like:

IMG_5170

Black-eyed peas over rice. Mama’s recipe. 🙂

As for why black-eyed peas are valued as a “lucky” food, there are a few reasons. Black-eyed peas plump up in size as they’re cooked, and when planted, black-eyed peas sprout easily in a garden. These two characteristics have been symbolically tied to growth, wealth, prosperity, and fertility, earning black-eyed peas a reputation for bringing good fortune to those who eat them. Outside of superstition, black-eyed peas do benefit the consumer through supercharging one’s diet with protein and fiber. They are low in fat and calories on their own, and simple simmering and seasoning will help them stay that way. If you’ve never tried them, or if they just don’t make their way to your plate very often, perhaps you should give black-eyed peas a try in 2015! I definitely scarfed down a bowl today to boost my chances of 2015 being a prosperous year. 🙂

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