Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Peas 'n' Greens

I was in the grocery store the other night and overheard a young woman chatting with an elderly lady. She was saying that so-and-so had never eaten black-eyed peas on New Year's Day, had never even heard of the tradition. At once my mind went to my grandmother. Every year she has the traditional meal of black-eyed peas and turnip greens. This is to herald in a new year of prosperity she says. I always took her word for it, but never tried it myself.

Today I began to research this seemingly Southern tradition. I found several responses in a forum: I found it interesting that so many people prepare this meal, and yet they have no idea why. Some said it was because the peas represented coins and the greens represented bills. Some said it was because Yankee soldiers raided the homes and took all the food except the peas in the field, which they presumed were weeds. Another theory is that peas were so plentiful that they would last the winter, even dried. It's amazing what you can learn from a simple search engine request.

If you follow the forum, you begin to find recipes for peas and greens and debates on who's recipe is best. Some went as far to say that bacon drippings masked the flavor of the greens. Now that would be an outright offense to my granny, I'm sure. To my knowledge, she never cooked a tasteless meal in her life!

Still another forum sheds this light: Peas are for health; greens are for wealth. "The belief that peas are for health and greens for wealth is a direct translation of many African proverbs regarding the tradition. Some West Africans still eat the dish to honor a certain god, while most of us in the U.S. associate the tradition with superstitions that have some sort of Southern basis." That quote is attributed to Jeff Elkins at this forum: It seems to me that this would make sense as many cooks in the South were slaves brought over from Africa. Perhaps they brought this tradition with them.

In any case, I think it is a great tradition. Some would frown on it as an old wive's tale or as superstition. You're entitled to your own opinion. As for me, I don't believe in superstitions. But I do believe peas and greens to be mighty tasty, and for the most part, excluding the bacon drippings, healthy. Maybe I'll just have to cook me up a batch this year and test the theories for myself. My best to you and your families. Happy New Year!!!!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Cabbage is the preferred "green" around here. But I suppose any will do.