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Amelia Islander

Black Eye Peas, Collard Greens, and Corn Bread Bring Luck for the New Year

Dec 25, 2017 02:00AM
A New Year is upon us, and we in the South will carry on the tradition of eating black eye peas, collard greens, and corn bread on New Year’s Day. There are dozens of theories about why these foodstuffs bring us good luck and prosperity for the New Year, but the one thing that all these conjectures have in common is that peas, greens, and bread are humble foods eaten in gratitude.

A simple and respectful way to begin anew, our favorite way to cook these ingredients is as austerely as possible. Black eye peas can be cooked as a stew, with onions, celery, carrots, broth, and bacon, if desired; collards are simmered long and slow with onions and pork jowls, served with a splash or vinegar and hot sauce; corn bread should be basic – no sugar allowed! If you’re a vegetarian, leave out the pork products and add extra salt, and a shake of Liquid Smoke.

Black eye peas represent coins, and it highly recommended that each person at the table eat 365 peas, no more and no less, for a prosperous New Year. Some believe you should leave one pea on your plate, to share with others. Collards represent paper money, and apparently there are no rules regarding how many leaves you can eat, so go ahead and gobble up the entire pot. Corn bread represents pocket money, so cut yourself a large square, slathered with butter, but only one piece, otherwise you will be considered greedy.

In many parts of the South, the three foods are eaten together – black eye peas are placed in a bowl, topped with greens, with corn bread crumbled on top. This makes for fewer dishes to wash after your New Year’s dinner, but it’s okay to eat them separately, as well. If you’re looking to serve the big three with other side dishes, that’s okay, but keep it humble. Pickled beets, grits, coleslaw, and sliced tomatoes pair well with beans and greens, along with lots of sweet tea to wash it down!