Not to long ago an old classmate/friend of mine posted a picture to his social media page of his dinner plate. He had extracted the green peas from the dish and commented on his dislike of them. As green is my favorite color, and I personally do not mind green peas, I just had to leave a fun comment. His reply, time for a blog post about peas. Well, I think you are right, except I am changing it up a bit. I am not going to write about green peas today, I am going to introduce him to a different kind of pea. A pea that is more like a bean than a pea; the black-eyed pea.
Many in the south eat the black-eyed peas, as tradition, on New Years day to add luck to their year to come. History explains to us why southerners eat black-eyed peas on New Years Day. As a northerner born and raised, I had never heard this story until I moved to the south. I suspect maybe my friend has not heard the story either. Either way, as a way to expand traditions, and spread some knowledge, I thought I would share the story with all of you.
It begins with the civil war. A war, I think, that no one truly leaves unscathed from or ever really gets over. But, that is for another discussion. Why the peas? Well, the story goes that Major General William T. Sherman led his army from Atlanta, GA on November 15th, 1864 to the port of Savannah where they arrived on December 22nd, 1864. The entire way, they left complete and utter destruction in their wake. Many southerners remained in hiding, with little to no food, as the northern army made their pass through. As they went across Georgia, the northern army took everything of value, including livestock. Any livestock that was not taken, was eaten to sustain the strength and lives of the troops. All crops were taken or destroyed, all livestock was taken or eaten, and many buildings brought down to the ground. What would the southerners find and do?
Once the pass was made, the starving southerners began to come out of hiding. They came out only to find everything destroyed, with the exception of several silos full of black-eyed peas. It appears the northern army could not take everything. And as the peas were only used in the north as feed stock, they were of little value. So the decision was made to leave them behind. For what need would the southerners have of the peas? They no longer had livestock to feed. It was true many fell to starvation. The southerners began to eat the only thing left to sustain their lives; the black-eyed peas. They found some hope in those peas. So, New Years Day 1865 and every New Years since, southerners have added black-eyed peas to their diet. They eat them as an emblem of hope that life will provide them much luck and sustenance in the days ahead.
Like most southerners, I had my share of black-eyed peas yesterday, livestock feed or not. I eat them to stick with tradition, to remember the horrors of the past, the road we have taken since, and in hope that one day all will be forgiven and healed. If luck comes along with that, then that is an added bonus for me. Most importantly, I actually like them with a little bit of butter and hint of bacon flavor. So to you my old classmate/friend and to all of you, if green is not your thing, then maybe you will find a flavor you like in a little pea called a black-eyed pea.