It being New Year’s, I was surfing the Internet, looking for a recipe that included black-eyed peas. My Virginia kinfolks didn’t serve the dish on New Year’s Day. But when I moved to south Missouri in the 50s, I learned that this was a ritual not to be taken lightly.
Tampering with Tradition
Over the years, Sonia, my friend and neighbor, saw to our family having the requisite number of peas, which I think was eight. Or was it 16? Or 365—one for each day of the year? The addition of collard greens upped your chances of prosperity, since it was the same color as money. I never had a problem eating a heap of these little, gray peas or even the collards. The rest of my family choked down a few spoonfuls for whatever benefit that might bring.
This year, during my on line search, I didn’t run onto anything interesting in black-eyed pea recipes. (I’m hearing many of you say, “Whew!”) But a turkey and sausage jambalaya caught my eye, mainly because I had all the ingredients on hand. I was further inspired by having spent the previous week in New Orleans and having a new apron.
Dare I Try Something New?
So I ditched the black-eyed pea dish; I’m going with the jambalaya for New Year’s Day. (Forgive me, Sonia, and all my friends and relatives south of the Ozark foothills.)
The recipe I used is from Lisa Fain, a James Beard award-winning cookbook writer. While living in New York, she wrote The Homesick Texan’s Family Table. The ingredient list didn’t look weird, or long, or even overly spicy. Anything that starts with the holy trinity of Cajun cuisine—onions, celery, peppers, plus garlic—is on the right track.
I made the jambalaya this weekend and it’s so delicious. Still, I felt guilty passing up the traditional black-eyed peas. So to cover all my bases (and in deference to my departed friend), I bought a can of Bush’s Black-eyed Peas and threw a few peas in the jambalaya, just to be on the safe side. Ahh! I feel so much better. In times like these, there’s no use taking unnecessary chances.
Side Note: While getting some cornbread makin’s, I ran onto Lou Hamilton in the grocery store. He was buying 15-bean soup mix, which includes black-eyed peas, along with northern, pinto, navy, lima, garbanzo, split (both green and yellow) red and white kidney, white, pink, black and red beans, lentils, and yellow eye.
Lou’s mother made the soup for their family when he was a kid and he’s continuing the tradition. I’m thinking that eating 15 varieties of beans ought to make Lou and his family the lucky folks in town. 🙂
Actually, it was his bean soup mixture that gave me the idea for throwing a few black-eyed peas into my jambalaya. It worked fine. I didn’t overdo it; I just added enough to appease my Scots-Irish superstitions.