If you are planning to celebrate the New Year in the Southeast, it is most likely that you will be offered black-eyed peas in some form, either just after midnight or on New Year's Day. From grand gala gourmet dinners to small casual gatherings with friends and family, these flavorful legumes are traditionally, according to Southern folklore, the food to be eaten on New Year's Day for luck and prosperity throughout the year ahead.
The practice of eating black-eyed peas for luck is generally believed to date back to the Civil War. At first planted as food for livestock, and later a food staple for slaves in the South, the fields of black-eyed peas were ignored as Sherman's troops destroyed or stole other crops, thereby giving the humble, but nourishing, black-eyed pea an important role as a major food source for surviving Confederates.
Today, the tradition of eating black-eyed peas for the New Year has evolved into a number of variations and embellishments of the luck and prosperity theme including:
Served with greens (collards, mustard or turnip greens, which varies regionally), the peas represent coins and the greens represent paper money. In some areas cabbage is used in place of the greens.
Cornbread, often served with black-eyed peas and greens, represents gold.
The catch to all of these superstitious traditions is that the black-eyed peas are the essential element and eating only the greens without the peas, for example, will not do the trick.
I have never heard about the cornbread but I can guarantee there was fried cornbread on our table yesterday simply because I love it and the rest of this Southern meal isn't complete without it. Fried pork chops, collards, black eyed peas, boiled egg slices, fried cornbread, potato salad, boiled potatoes, smoked neckbone and sweet tea was the meal shared at our home to welcome 2012. Even SweetGirl who has a terrible head cold managed to eat a respectable amount. Do you have any traditional new year's foods?