Black-Eyed Peas and Good Luck

When I was a kid, I hated black-eyed peas because the cooks at the high school cafeteria boiled them into a brown mush that was best used for various construction projects like mortaring bricks together. Or, low-grade library paste.

Does eating them bring good luck? The one year my mother fixed them the traditional Southern way (brown mush) something bad happened. It was so bad, I’ve blocked out what it was. I vowed to never again eat black-eyed peas that looked like mush.

Mother usually served them the way a Midwestern cook would serve regular peas. Those I liked. But nobody else in the Florida Panhandle cooked them that way. Unlike my parents, I liked a lot of traditional Southern foods: boiled peanuts, mullet, grits, rosin baked potatoes, collards, hush puppies, anything out of New Orleans, traditional Southern fried chicken, pan fry bread, sugar cane stalks to chew on, green beans cooked with bacon, plenty of gravy, catfish, and Apalachicola oysters.

Every new year, I see my Facebook friends showing pictures of their January 1 meals with heaping ladels of mushy black-eyed peas. Okay, so my parents came from the midwest and the northwest and didn’t boil peas into a road-tar like mess that could be used to resurface city streets.

No, I’m not totally Southern when it comes to black-eyed peas. Give me a sack of boiled peanuts any day.





Are you eating collards, black-eyed peas and cornbread?

“Each ingredient has meaning and purpose. Black-eyed peas represent coins, collard greens represent dollar bills and cornbread represents gold. Eating each Southern staple on New Year’s Day is supposed to guarantee a prosperous year, ensuring wealth and luck. While, I do not believe in luck, I do believe in the power of tradition.”

– Amber Wilson in her blog For The Love of the South

Wikipedia Photo
Wikipedia Photo

As far as I know, I had black-eyed peas, collard greens and cornbread only once on January 1. Something bad happened in the days after that and while my parents and their friends discussed the fact that the meal wasn’t a magic charm in my case, I no longer remember what the bad thing was. Must have blocked it out.

Even though I like these things (the collards take a lot of vinegar to disguise the taste and the black-eyed peas have  to be fresh rather than baked into a brown mush like many people do), my wife doesn’t like any of them. Well, we both like cornbread and still have some left over from Christmas Day.

Why tempt fate by eating this combination again at New Year’s?

I like a lot of Southern food: boiled peanuts, mullet, fried catfish, hoppin’ John, pumpkin frybread, Vidalia onions and yellow squash, hush puppies, grits, and a ton of stuff from New Orleans. But collards never got into my top 100 things to eat. Neither did black-eyed peas, for that matter.

Maybe we’ll have steak on new year’s day along with a baked potato wrapped up in tin foil and some fake bacon bits ready to go. Of course, if you believe in the whole collards, black-eyed peas and cornbread spell, go ahead an eat it at your own discretion and maybe it will bring you luck for 2017. By the way, if you click on the link above for Amber’s blog, her recipe for this old Southern spell actually looks pretty good.

Happy new year!