Moss, is humor writer from Tennessee. She writes a
weekly human interest column about daily life and the funny
things that happen to everyone.
She has written for the Daily News of Kingsport, Griffin Journal,
Oakridge Now, Atlanta Woman Magazine, Aberdeen Examiner, Angleton
Advocate, and Smyrna AM, a supplement of the Murfreesboro Daily News
Journal. She has been
published by Voyageur Press, McGraw Hill, and the good folks
at Guidepost Books. Her articles have appeared in
numerous anthologies and other publications, both in print and online.
She is a
former board member and past Editor of the Columnists.com, website of the National Society of Newspaper
oldest and largest professional organization
for columnists. She is the Web Editor of
Humorists.com and a founder of the Southern Humorists writers'
organization. She is writer, editor, and webmaster of HumorColumnist.com.
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Online Since 1999
a bad year and are wishing for better luck next year? Try
eating some black-eyed peas. Black-eyed peas on New Year's Day are
a southern tradition. There seems to be little agreement on how
this custom began, though, or why a food as humble as black-eyed
peas might be considered lucky.
In some places, black-eyed peas are called "cowpeas"
because they were once only used as fodder for the cattle. Some
believe the custom of eating black-eyed peas for luck started
during the Civil War when southern troops under siege had to exist
on what was available and considered peas lucky because they
Others believe the custom was started by poor folks who learned to
"make do" with whatever food they had available. Some of
the creative recipes born out of necessity and poverty were quite
delicious and these "soul foods" became a part of
southern culture. Due to scarcity of food in winter, it was
considered lucky to have a plentiful supply of peas at the
beginning of the New Year.
It may be that the association of luck with black-eyed peas is
much older than American history, however, and goes back to times of the
past. The first visitor of the New Year in some cultures was thought to
determine the luck of a household for the following year. A
gentleman considered lucky was invited to accompany "lady
luck" and welcomed with a kiss and a bowl of black-eyed pea
It is sometimes alleged that what is done on the first day of a
new year will be continued for the entire year. Believing this, it becomes
important to eat lucky foods to ensure a good year. In addition to the peas,
southerners may eat cooked greens or cabbage, which represents
money or prosperity, and cornbread which represents gold.
Black-eyed peas, however, are always fundamental.
In the winter, black-eyed peas are usually found as dried peas
that must be soaked overnight in water before cooking. Usually the
peas are slow simmered or cooked in a crock-pot on low heat until
done. Black-eyed peas are usually seasoned with salt-pork, jowl,
or even the hambone from a country ham. Southerners have learned not to be
wasteful, especially with food. Rice, another lucky food, is added
in some regions, along with sausage and tomatoes to make a dish
called "Hoppin' John."
Black-eyed peas have a distinctive flavor that not everyone
appreciates. Some people will not eat them at all, saying that eating
black-eyed peas is just a superstition and they don't believe they bring good luck.
Probably most people eat the peas now less out of superstition than because
it has become a custom ingrained in southern culture.
Outside of the southern states, people sometimes don't even know
what black-eyed peas are. However, they are easy to recognize because
each pea has a black spot or "eye" where it detached
from the peapod. Southerners eat black-eyed peas year long and
just consider them "good eatin."
My southern mama always made black-eyed peas. I hated them, but
choked down a bite or two for luck on New Year's -- just in case.
I swore I would never eat another black-eyed pea when I became an
adult, lucky or not. However, I have learned to cook frozen
black-eyed peas, which taste much fresher and less starchy than
the dried ones, and now I almost like them.
Whatever other foods are eaten, black-eyed peas are a comfort food
that has become a necessity in the south for welcoming in the New
Year. It is often believed that you should eat 365 peas on New
Year's Day to ensure luck for each day of the coming year.
So, here's wishing you joy and prosperity for the coming year. May
you have good health, good fortune, and may your home be as filled
with luck as a pot full of black-eyed peas.
Copyright 2006 Sheila Moss
Nashville, TN 37219
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