Her response? “Because it’s tradition, and good luck.”
Oh good… I’m glad that got cleared up. Thanks…
Well, now I had to know. Why in the world do we eat these little strange looking legumes on this day?
According to several different websites I scoured for information, eating black-eyed peas for luck on New Year’s Eve is generally believed to date back to the Civil War. Apparently, black-eyed peas were 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 Major General William Tecumseh Sherman's troops destroyed or stole other crops from Atlanta to Savanah. What this did was give the humble, but surprisingly filling, black-eyed pea an important role for the Confederate soldiers, and later the south as a whole.
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.
I found a few variations on the popular dish. Some examples are:
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.
For the best chance of luck every day in the year ahead, one must eat at least 365 black-eyed peas on New Year's Day.
Black-eyed peas eaten with stewed tomatoes represent wealth and health.
In some areas, actual values are assigned with the black-eyed peas representing pennies or up to a dollar each and the greens representing anywhere from one to a thousand dollars.
Adding a shiny penny or dime to the pot just before serving is another tradition practiced by some. When served, the person whose bowl contains the penny or dime receives the best luck for the New Year, unless of course, the recipient swallows the coin, which would be a rather unlucky way to start off the year.
So basically, I’ve got something to share tonight over dinner about how lucky these peas really are.
For those of you who read this and are like, “WOW I can’t wait to eat black-eyed peas and be lucky as hell this New Year,” why not try out this Texas Caviar recipe?