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An Ode to my Southern Mother: Black-Eyed Peas (Extraordinaire)

Happy 2012 everyone!

It wouldn’t be New Year’s Day without sharing a recipe for Black Eye Peas. According to Southern folklore, Black Eyed Peas are the first food to be eaten on New Year’s Day for luck & prosperity throughout the year ahead. I’ll take it! Gimme a gallon! The post below was submitted by my dear friend Andi. As always, enjoy her beautiful writing, wit & charm. Take it away Andi…

"Yes, I have indeed been called on my use of “y-all” (plural: “all y’all”), which is immediately followed by, “Where are you from?” I am a So.-Cal.-spent-my-summers-on-the-beach native but my darling Mama is a true, died-in-the-wool Suh-thuh-nuh. She comes by it quite naturally, as my Grandmama was the perfect prototype of the Southern Belle – pretty as a picture on the outside, & as feisty as they come on the inside. And there was simply nuthin’ that didn’t go well with a jigger of Jack Daniels.

So, when our new CSA (J.R. Organics – we switched recently due to delivery challenges with our previous CSA) delighted us with fresh, still-in-the-pod black-eyed peas, I knew I had to do something special with them. Number one, I had never had fresh black-eyed peas before, & two, I had to do my Southern heritage proud.”

"We grew up celebrating the New Year with Virginia ham & Black-Eyed Peas. Obviously, the ham part is off my menu, but thank goodness I can still bring the purported good-luck those little legumes have to offer to my vegan household. Mom used to serve her Southern fare to the entire neighborhood. What memories - Mom’s amazing cooking, good friends & football games playing in the background.

Because I hadn’t even seen still-in-the-hull Black-Eyed Peas before, I was taken aback by their initial appearance. In fact, I figured we had just received some new kind of bean, & I dutifully stored them in the crisper drawer until I figured out what to do with them. It finally occurred to me to check my CSA newsletter & see what type of bean I had been gifted. I was beyond happy to learn there were Black-Eyed Peas inside those old, nasty-ish looking pods. Funny to later learn – via subsequent CSA newletters – that plenty of folks were thrown off; I guess the CSA was receiving dirty e-mails complaining about the “old” beans they had been given. And, I noticed that our next round of peas were hulled & dried; I guess they decided this was the easier way to go. While it did take me quite some time to shell them all, I thoroughly enjoyed the task. It was duly reminiscent of slow, easy, muggy Southern afternoons, spent hulling Butter Beans & other treats from Grandma & Granddad’s garden.”  

"Once all the happy one-eyed wonders were lounging in their bowl, I determined it was time to get my recipe on. In one of the vegetarian Bibles dear to those of us of the veggie persuasion – Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone  – to what did my wondering eyes appear but a “Southern Style” black-eyed peas recipe!! Once my happy dance wrapped up, I got down to business.”

She also suggests serving these “spicy peas, with their juices, over rice with Braised Collard or Turnip Greens”. Yes – more Southern goodness. My Grandma would be very happy to know her peas were being served atop collard greens. 

Is this recipe as easy as it looks? Absolutely. And the taste was so much more than we were anticipating. Spicy, indeed - & there was a depth & a smokiness to the flavors that surprised & delighted. 

As the New Year has arrived, pick up some Black-Eyed beauties & bless your next 365 with some good ol’-fashioned Suth’rn luck (add heaping tablespoon of gratitude for all the past year brought, if so desired). 

Happy, HAPPY holidays to one & all (and an EXTRA special thank you – & so much love - to our beloved Vegenista, who is making differences, big & small).”

~ Andi 

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