Peas, Greens and 2024
Here's to simple Southern cooking as we blaze into the New Year
Some of us can say we've been eating black-eyed peas and collard greens since we were babies, and we still don't have any luck.
But here we are at the turn of the New Year, and its time to get our peas, greens and cornbread ready. You're almost too scared not to eat peas because your bad luck might get worse. My mom always said, “If it wasn't for bad luck I'd have no luck at all.”
According to the 1993 book, Southern Food: At Home, On the Road, In History, author John Egerton connected peas with a “mystical and mythical power to bring good luck.”
The black-eyed pea’s origin is West Africa where they were considered a charm to ward off the Evil Eye. Here at the Reckoning we can use all of the charms we can get to ward off enemies and certainly the Evil Eye we get in Dollar Generals across several counties.
During the Civil War, Union troops confiscated Southerners’ crops and livestock often leaving peas and greens. Peas were seen by Union troops as feed for livestock and they had slaughtered almost all of them. They left behind peas and salt pork, which my mom always put in her peas.
“Salt meat” as she called it. She even used to fry it and make a salt meat sandwich on white bread with just mayonnaise and sometimes sliced onion or if she wanted to get fancier, green onions. Wish I had one of those sandwiches now
Another black-eyed pea legend says slaves ate black-eyed peas on January 1, 1863, the day the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect because that's all they had to eat.
Southerners of all races thought themselves lucky enough to have anything to eat after the Civil War, and thankful for black-eyed peas.
And most of us still eat them religiously on New Year's Day. I do. Too scared not to eat them, but I also love them.
We never did fancy. My mom soaked the dry peas overnight in water. Next morning, put peas in fresh water on the stove, add bacon drippings from the cup in the ice box you've collected for months, salt, pepper and cook until tender or mushy. That's it.
Southerners love their greens – turnip, collard and mustard.
Obviously they're green and represent money. We could all use more of that in this economy.
My mom wasn't a big greens person, but my aunt, who we called A.O., was. She used a pressure cooker. Those things scared my mom, and I inherited that fear. If I want greens I just open a can of Old Glory.
Basically an old school greens recipe is greens, water to cover greens, a hamhock or pieces of bacon, salt, pepper, pinch of sugar, splash of white vinegar and some bacon grease. Cook until tender.
Fancy people add garlic and all sorts of spices. Pepper sauce is a must.
My mom’s cornbread recipe is forever lost. She made it by memory and I never wrote it down. I do know whatever you do use real cornmeal not something from a box and don't make it sweet. One thing she did teach me was cornbread isn't a dessert.
Here at South Arkansas Reckoning we wish you a Happy 2024.
Buckle up, Buttercups. And eat your peas and greens
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