Black-eyed peas are a well known food of the African diaspora, making their way to the United States with people who were enslaved and becoming a staple of soul food and southern foodways in general. In the United States, they are often eaten with rice for New Year’s Day and are the perfect recipe to feature for our first January 2022 newsletter!
Unfortunately, African American and southern foods are often (and quite wrongly) deemed unhealthy by the wellness community. The truth is that many of these dishes are full of vegetables and legumes and very nutrient dense! Black-eyed peas, rice, and collard greens are all particularly high in magnesium and are a great, nourishing way to start the New Year or eat anytime you want a satisfying boost of minerals during a cold and snowy Buffalo winter!
Rather than printing a recipe here, we’re going to direct you to the Shondaland website for Noelle Carter's interview with culinary journalist Toni Tipton-Martin and her recipe for Black-eyed peas and rice as well as Gumbo Z’herbes with collard greens. We would also highly recommend checking out her book Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking for a wealth of recipes and historical information.
Here is her brief history of Watch Night and the significance of these foods:
Watch Night Service is a gathering of the faithful to bring in the New Year with spirituals, prayers, and testimony. The celebration began on “Freedom’s Eve,” December 31, 1862, when enslaved people gathered in churches to await the news that the Emancipation Proclamation had set them free. With the news came shouts of jubilation and gratitude. Today, the service includes reflection, praise, and worship to God for His provision and protection.
Folklore in the “Penn School & Sea Islands Heritage Cookbook” described the Carolina Lowcountry this way: “Early on New Year’s Eve, the pots begin to cook, as the meal for New Year’s day must be done by Midnight. The menu for New Year’s Day is a simple one: Hoppin’ John, collard greens with hog jowls, and ribs for a side dish. Hoppin’ John, or brown field peas cooked with rice, is eaten for good luck throughout the year. The collard greens represent dollar bills. It is said the more one eats, the more luck and money one will have.”
This adaptation of Hoppin’ John appeared in “Aunt Julia’s Cook Book,” a collection of Atlantic Coast recipes published in the 1930s by the Standard Oil Company.
May these delicious foods help you to start 2022 in a healthy and delicious way!
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