“The Southern field pea is a symbol of all we do,”
December 31, 2015 6:03 AM   Subscribe

Field Peas, a Southern Good Luck Charm [The New York Times]
Eating a bowl of black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is not the nation’s sexiest food ritual. Peas are not as beloved as Thanksgiving turkey. They lack the easy appeal of Super Bowl guacamole or the religious significance of a Hanukkah latke. But for a day, a broad swath of the nation stands united in its belief that black-eyed peas simmered with cured pork and served with soupy greens like collard or folded into rice for some hoppin’ John promise a year of luck and money.
posted by Fizz (40 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
I grew up in the South and even though I now live in Canada, this is a tradition that our entire family still believes in. Picked up my can of beans yesterday. Will be making a salad for tomorrow.

Happy New Years!
posted by Fizz at 6:09 AM on December 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Black-eyed peas can sometimes be hard to find here in Canada (not impossible, just not common). It's been a long time since I've done a version of collards and peas--fond memories of this at my grandmother's in Northern Florida are washing over me now--but this morning I decided I would because...well, I'm a Southerner a long way from home and sometimes it's the smallest rituals, the littlest connections, that make me feel less homesick.
posted by Kitteh at 6:12 AM on December 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


well, I'm a Southerner a long way from home and sometimes it's the smallest rituals, the littlest connections, that make me feel less homesick.

This. So much this. Our family is mostly vegetarian so we modify the 'tradition' a bit by turning it into a bean-salad, but the tradition still stands. It's a way to connect with our past and childhood.
posted by Fizz at 6:15 AM on December 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Fizz, this is the recipe I'm going to use tomorrow for my peas & greens!
posted by Kitteh at 6:37 AM on December 31, 2015 [5 favorites]


A few years ago, after a close friend was murdered on New Year's Eve, I started having people over for black eyed peas, cornbread, and greens on New Year's Day, mostly so I could cook all day and get my mind off things. This year I'll be cooking for close to twenty people and it's become one of my favorite traditions. I still miss my friend horribly, but having so many others with me to kick off the new year with lucky foods eases the pain a bit.

Most of what I'll be cooking today and tomorrow will be vegan. Here's the black eyed pea recipe I loosely work from. Vegan cornbread from the PPK.
posted by marshmallow peep at 6:43 AM on December 31, 2015 [13 favorites]


I grew up on a slightly weird version of the tradition, black eyed peas, pork chops, and spinach, but as an adult I opt for a more traditional version: collards and peas, seasoned with smoked pork and no big meat item. My mom's Shake and Bake pork chop was always tasty, but doesn't really convey the idea of starting the year with a humble meal. My Yankee wife doesn't participate and cooking collards for one is kind of a silly exercise, but I still do it.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:48 AM on December 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


It is great that they are starting to revive and distribute some of the old varieties of field peas. I've eaten really tasty field peas that are nothing like the bland peas and beans at the supermarket, in the same way an heirloom tomato tastes better than a generic one. It would be wonderful to be able to buy the field peas the article describes in my local supermarket.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:49 AM on December 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


I would not at all be upset if this thread devolves into the sharing of different bean-related recipes.
posted by Fizz at 6:54 AM on December 31, 2015 [8 favorites]


Serious Eats published a fascinating article on hoppin' john that goes into more detail than the NY Times article about why the black-eyed peas in the grocery store these days are not the same as the black-eyed peas that made the dish traditionally popular.
posted by Jeanne at 6:56 AM on December 31, 2015 [6 favorites]


If that's the case I'll also submit Texas caviar, which doesn't have the same cold-weather heartiness I want from a New Year's Day bowl of black eyed peas but which is delicious nonetheless.
posted by marshmallow peep at 6:58 AM on December 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yes, please. More recipes. This is a cultural tradition I'd like to appropriate, and I want to try the authentic, porkified version before I leap to the new-fangled vegan derivatives.
posted by notyou at 6:59 AM on December 31, 2015


black-eyed peas in the grocery store these days are not the same as the black-eyed peas that made the dish traditionally popular

I don't think I've seen field peas in ages and certainly not in Canada. One of the memories I have as a kid was sitting with my grandmother on her side porch shelling crowder peas. Actually the last time I ate real deal crowder peas was about five years ago, the last time I saw them.
posted by Kitteh at 7:01 AM on December 31, 2015


BeanFilter: Yes, please. More recipes.
posted by Fizz at 7:04 AM on December 31, 2015


I don't think I've seen field peas in ages and certainly not in Canada.

Depending on the demographics where you are, any store catering to Caribbean immigrants should have at least a basic selection including pigeon/gungu peas and so on, though probably not any of the heirloom varieties described in the article of course.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:07 AM on December 31, 2015


Have told this story before, am telling it again -

I first made hoppin' John and collard greens for New Year's Day about 9years ago now. My then-roommate, who was born in .texas but raised in Atlanta, eagerly said that yes, she'd have some when I told her I was about to make it. She stayed working on her computer when I was cooking, working from something I had in a cookbook. When the cookbook deemed it would be done, I called her - "food's ready!"

She poked her head out of her room dubiously. "So soon? It's only been a half hour."

"Uh... Yeah. That's what the recipe I have says."

"Really?"

"Yes."

She came into the kitchen, still skeptical. "Let me see this..." She took a clean spoon, took a taste. Then she took MY cooking spoon out of my hand. "Oh, honey, you're from New England. You wouldn't know." She gently pushed me out of the kitchen. "Don't worry. I'll fix this."

We had properly done collard greens an hour later. Since then I've worked with a much better recipe.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:52 AM on December 31, 2015 [17 favorites]


I'm doing the "Spicy Pork Chili with Black-Eyed Peas" from Healthy Slow Cooker Revolution. Definitely the best black-eyed pea dish I've ever made -- this one's worth cooking even when you're not just doing it for tradition and luck. (This is not always the case, at least to my palate. I'm enthusiastic about eating my peas every year, but I'm not always so enthusiastic about the flavor.)
posted by asperity at 7:58 AM on December 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Like others invested in raising the profile of the field pea, Dr. Shields said the type of black-eyed peas sold in grocery stores have given the field pea a bad reputation. They were mostly used for cattle fodder in the 19th-century and “have a quite a dull flavor.”

Not sure I've got time to go looking for different peas today, but I am excited about trying some other varieties this year. Good article!
posted by asperity at 8:04 AM on December 31, 2015


There's also 12 grapes of luck in Spanish-speaking places.
posted by aniola at 8:28 AM on December 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


I didn't grow up Hoppin' John, but we've been making some version of it for the past 8 years. We were having fun trying a recipe every year, but now we're sticking with the Post Punk Kitchen recipe Kitteh linked above. The Red Hot Tahini is so, so good.
posted by amarynth at 10:19 AM on December 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Got my peas on the wood stove now (with chicken stock and "magic salt-free seasoning" which I guess will turn out ok), and sometime this evening I'll bake the cornbread on the coals inside so it's super hot and crispy and slightly smoky.
posted by joeyh at 10:44 AM on December 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've had a rough couple of years. This will be the third new year in a row that I make desperate wishes for the coming year to be better than the preceding one. I bought some "fresh" black-eyed peas (actually just soaked, I think) at the grocery store yesterday. Opened the container this morning to find them basically inedible: The ones one top were dry and crusty, while the ones in the middle were slimy like natto.

I'm wondering what kind of omen it is when you buy the traditional harbinger of good luck with great hope, only to find it rotten.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:20 AM on December 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


PS: Toss a dried chipotle in with your peas to give them a smokey kick without the pork.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:21 AM on December 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeessss!!!! I literally came back from buying black eyed peas!

I grew up in New Mexico, which is not even part of the South, but my mom would cook this on New Year's. My parents are from Thailand, so I have no idea how they picked up the recipe.

This is the first time I'm going to try making it myself. I have no idea how they do it in the South, but I'm going to try making it like a pulao, with basmati rice. And use sliced up bacon instead of ham hocks.
posted by pravit at 11:42 AM on December 31, 2015


My great-grandfathers said " Threre ain't no reason to eat cattle fodder if the Redlegs ain't stole all the real food." So we had black beans and hominy (white), mixed greens (mustard, turnip and collard) seasoned with bacon, vinegar, white onions 1 red onion and 1 Apple, and squash pie.

When we were old enough, we get a few sips of whisky made from malted corn, corn and water. No barley or sugar to spoil the taste.
posted by ridgerunner at 11:57 AM on December 31, 2015


Squash pie is an awfully weird seasoning for mixed greens.
posted by mudpuppie at 12:08 PM on December 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ouch. But Candy Roaster Squash pie beats the hell out of any pumpkin pie. And field pumpkins is a cow food, at least that's what our Gurnsey cows were fed, along with oats, barley, beans and hay.
posted by ridgerunner at 12:21 PM on December 31, 2015


There's a bit of a bean worm going around

"
When the smoke cleared...troops had left silos full of black eyed peas.

At the time in the north, the lowly black eyed pea was only used to feed stock. The northern troops saw it as the thing of least value. ...So they left the black eyed peas in great quantities assuming it would be of no use to the survivors, since all the livestock it could feed had either been taken or eaten."

But perhaps this confederate worm was cooked up in Texas?
posted by eustatic at 1:09 PM on December 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Huh. No idea that this was a New Years thing, and no idea that there were other cowpeas around. I've made a greens and beans dish for years, mostly based on a soup I used to love from a local Greek-ish place back in Ann Arbor, and informed by a handful of West African restaurants that have done something similar. Here's to hoping I can find more varieties of the peas, since, yeah, they can either be chalky or mushy if cooked wrong.
posted by klangklangston at 2:09 PM on December 31, 2015


Seem to be a lot of ex-Southerners in Canada. Anyway, I always have hoppin' John on New Year's and experiment with different beans. This year it's moth (that's moat beans, Mate!) which I found out from the articles is the same genus (Vigna) as field peas. I'm looking forward to it.
BTW, the mention of eating the young green field pea shoots really called up a bunch of memories. Absolutely the best way to eat these beans but unavailable except for a limited time in a specific locale.
posted by CCBC at 2:47 PM on December 31, 2015


Of course, the only grocery store within walking distance doesn't have black-eyed peas. OF COURSE.
posted by Kitteh at 2:59 PM on December 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hey eustatic

I think my Great-grandpa was referring to Gen. Ewing's General Order No. 11. In MO. But he was just picky about what he'd eat. Corn was white and came off a red cob, not that yellow stuff grown for hog feed. He had enough cash for real coffee not not roasted dandelion and chicory root and would "havta be starvin'" before he'd eat 'possum again.

I would like to try some red black-eyed peas but the white ones are just too much trouble.
posted by ridgerunner at 3:16 PM on December 31, 2015


My beps are soaking with some dried chipotles right now. I'm getting hungry!
posted by moonmilk at 3:32 PM on December 31, 2015


To fellow displaced southerners in Canada: you can find black eyed peas and some other field peas along with okra at most Indian groceries.
posted by congen at 4:43 PM on December 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


I didn't know there were recipes. Mostly I just boil a ham bone, soak the beans, cook them in the ham bone water, and eat them. Right now we're at the cooking stage... the eating will be in the morning and it cannot come fast enough. (I cook almost all of my beans in ham bone water... I'm a simpleton)
posted by one4themoment at 6:15 PM on December 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


My mom was never entirely sure if it was New Year's Eve or New Year's Day that one was supposed to eat the blackeyes, so we always had them on both days.
posted by 4ster at 6:31 PM on December 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ok, wait a minute. Do people not know purple hulls? I spent my childhood with stained fingers (not light skinned) from hulling those expletives.

I grow, and this year I had five types of beans. In the south this is just normal.

This story is great for people who nothing of southern foodways, but hm.

Thank you poster for reminding me mylife isn't everyone's.
posted by syncope at 11:08 PM on December 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


If you're stuck with canned beps for New Year's day, at least improve your lot by rinsing them thoroughly before you start cooking. The nasty can water is 3/4 of what most people find objectionable.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 8:23 AM on January 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


Had mine in the crockpot overnight. I like it to be the first thing I eat in the New Year.
posted by kyrademon at 9:46 AM on January 1, 2016


Yay! I just finished a bowl. Making black-eyed peas and collard greens on New Year's Day is one of my favorite traditions. I also ran across this recipe from last year based on Sean Brock's version that looks labor-intensive but delicious. Bean gravy!
posted by aka burlap at 12:45 PM on January 1, 2016


Here's my hoppin john pilaf... surprisingly good. It works really well as a pilaf. The black eyed peas act like chickpeas and the bacon gives it the fat.
posted by pravit at 6:29 PM on January 1, 2016


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