The tradition of eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day dates back to the Civil War when they were first planted as a food source for livestock. When Sherman’s troops destroyed or stole other crops, the black-eyed peas were ignored, thereby leaving the nourishing legumes as a food staple for the Confederates. It is considered good luck to eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day. For even better luck and prosperity every day of the year, one must eat 365 peas on the first day of the year.
The peas themselves represent coins and the tradition has many variations, many involving the addition of greens to represent paper money, tomatoes to represent health and wellness and cornbread to represent gold. One embellishment of this New Year’s Day tradition is adding a penny or dime to the pot before serving. The person whose bowl contains the coin is said to have the best luck for the New Year, unless of course, he or she swallows the coin, which would be quite an unlucky way to start the New Year.
1 pound black-eyed peas
1 pinch garlic powder
2 cups chopped cooked ham
2 onions, diced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 (14.5 ounce) can whole tomatoes
Place black-eyed peas in an 8-quart pot. Add enough water to fill pot 3/4 full. Stir in ham and diced onions, season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Place tomatoes in a blender or food processor, and blend until the tomatoes are liquified. Add tomatoes to pot. Bring all ingredients to boil. Cover the pot, and simmer on low heat for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until the peas are tender.
Yields 16 – ½ cup servings.