In southern black culture there is an unwritten rule that New Year’s Day dinner tables are supposed to feature black eyed peas, collard greens and cornbread. This meal is said to bring good luck to the household of those who eat it.
This long-standing tradition highlights a superstitious past that some historians say dates back to 500 AD, when black eye peas were said to be a staple of the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah. White American southerners would sing a different tune, citing that lucky black eye peas were all that was left for Confederate soldiers to eat after a Union raid during the Civil War. But, eating black eye peas with rice has its roots in West African culture. Hence, African slaves carried these eating traditions when they were forcefully shipped to the Americas.
Historically, black eye peas were considered meager feed for animals, but were also given to slaves for nourishment. Adding flavor from scrap pork parts and slow cooking the peas with rice, many slave families crafted delicious meals like Hoppin’ John. Nowadays, black eye pea dishes are cooked in a variety of ways to celebrate the New Year in black households. Some families even throw a new penny or dime in the pot of peas for added luck. It is said that the person who gets the coin in his or her portion is to be extremely lucky.
Eating collard greens (or mustards, turnip or cabbage greens) have a much simpler superstitious history. They are said to resemble greenbacks or “folding money.” And cornbread is said to resemble gold.
Do you eat any of these traditional African dishes on New Year’s Day? If so, what are your favorite recipes? Do you believe they bring good look? Leave your comments below.
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