Beans, beans the magical fruit. . .

Eat them on New Years and they’ll bring you good luck?

Well I’ve done some homework and I’m here to tell you that Black-eyed peas are neither a pea nor a bean.  They are however a member of the legume family, so in my opinion, for all intense purposes . . . black-eyed peas ARE beans – whatever.

Just in case you’ve been the slightest bit curious about the whole Black-eyed pea – good luck thing, I’ve got a little history lesson for you (make that ½ lesson, ½ folklore – I came across so many varying bits of information about the pea/bean that I’ve decided to come up with my own interpretation).

According to some sources, the black-eyed pea has been around for thousands of years and was even considered a symbol of luck and fortune during the time of the Pharaoh’s.   Where did the Pharaoh’s live? – That’s right, class North Africa in Egypt.  

Wanda Ravernell of Oakland has added even more insight, stating that New Year’s Eve or New Years Day reaches back to West African traditions.  So the Egyptians probably spread the Black-eyed beans to southern African through trade.  During slavery, it became an African American tradition and the custom continued after emancipation – hence the relevance of New Years Day also being called Emancipation Day.  The ritual symbolism of the meal for African Americans is linked to the New Years Eve church service called Watch Night, a tradition originated by the Methodists, where people gathered to pray for the coming year.  For African Americans, free and slave alike, New Year’s Day was when laws that had been passed in the previous year that might especially impact them went into effect.  They worried when the Fugitive Slave Act went into effect on Jan. 1, 1850 and rejoiced on Jan 1, 1863, when slavery ended.  Until emancipation they would vicariously celebrate the end of slavery with Haiti’s independence in 1804 and Jamaica in1839. 

Another account foretold that the pea/bean was strictly used for cattle feed in the 1800’s in the south.  Obviously before African Americans food choices effected the white American population at that time. During the Civil war battle of Vicksburg, the town was under siege for over 40 days cutting off all supplies from coming in and or from leaving.  The entire town was on the brink of starvation, until they decided to eat the peas, then called cowpeas.  Thus starting the southern tradition of eating Black-eyed peas on New Years for luck and prosperity.  The superstition is that those who eat black-eyed peas, an inexpensive and modest food, show their humility and save themselves from the wrath of the heavens because of the vanity they might have. 

Other accounts state that the black-eyed pea was a staple in the southern diet for over 300 years.  Having been long associated with luck and prosperity for the New Year, the pea is said to represent coin money and the greens (collard greens used in most southern recipes), that of paper money. “Hoppin’ John” is a very popular recipe for black-eyed peas served and or cooked with rice.  Most recipes cook the beans in some sort of broth with some sort of pig parts, onion, and salt, sometimes a variety of other spices.  However you choose to cook and eat your peas, may they bring you the BEST of LUCK, and a VERY PROSPEROUS New Year.  Happy New Years Everyone!

Here is a collection of a few recipes I found (that varied enough) to warrant putting them all in one place – makes comparing a lot easier.  10 . . . 9 . . . 8 . . .

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