Now I’m not pointing any fingers, but y’all know who you are. You’ve been tempting fate and angering your Southern food gods and now that reckless behavior is wreaking havoc on all of us. I’m talking about the fact that there’s obviously a significant number of you who have skipped the black eyed peas on New Year’s Day!
As long as I can remember grandparents, aunts, uncles, and others stressed the importance of partaking in the traditional new year’s food specifications to bring about good outcomes for the year ahead. Black eyed peas for luck, greens for money and wealth, and pork for a little fat (excess). Since 2016 started off rather hellish with the loss of David Bowie, Glenn Frey, and Dale Bumpers I’d say the lack of some to ingest the peas might be the cause of such dire circumstances that have occurred this year. All of this may sound superstitious, and maybe I am, but these days why shouldn’t I be.
I take this New Year’s dining seriously. This is not a game to me. I have prepped this meal in advance of bowl game trips. I have carried this meal to Dallas before the Cotton Bowl and I have hurried home from Dallas after the Cotton Bowl game so as not to literally press my luck by missing this specific meal. I verified this meal would be available in New Orleans for dining on Sugar Bowl trips. I learned a long time ago that this was no laughing matter and I would never take such chances of being without this meal again.
My routine beginning on New Year’s Eve is to soak the dry peas in water overnight (or at least for several hours). After soaking, rinse peas and put them in a large pot (or even a slow cooker) with a mixture of water and chicken broth. Sauteed onions, garlic, green bell peppers are added to the peas along with your preference of Cajun seasoning and two bay leaves. Usually, I will add some type of link sausage (like kielbasa for a little extra fat) sliced into the mixture as well as some freshly chopped cilantro. Let the mixture slowly simmer for a couple of hours. I like my peas to be soupy, like a meal all their own if need be. Sides with the peas include greens that have been slow cooked in a little chicken broth, water, garlic, and salt and pepper. Hog jowl (or bacon if you prefer) is baked on a rack in the oven so that they drippings run off into the pan. This is a nice alternative to frying the jowl. If you want to change the game up a bit, brush maple syrup over the pork before placing it in the oven for a little sweet mixed with the savory. I use a little of the drippings for making the cornbread. New Year’s Day is the end of the holiday season so you can splurge one day on a little extra fat, and we all know we need a little fat to do us good. You can just skip the sugary dessert if you’re feeling guilty, but don’t skip the peas.
Now I realize that some of you may not have the time or the desire to cook like me, but for the love of Pete, please open up some cans, find a restaurant that honors these traditions, or visit friends or relatives who cook like this on New Year’s Day. Heck, if you’re my neighbor come on over and I’ll feed you and share this tradition. Call me if you need some meal prep coaching, but please do not gamble with fate anymore. I as well as many of you have lost more artists and performers from the soundtrack and screenplay of our lives this year and we just can’t take another year of this magnitude of loss. Harper Lee, Patty Duke, Garry Shandling, Nancy Reagan, Prince, Merle Haggard, Guy Clark, Scotty Moore, Pat Summit, Ralph Stanley, Muhammad Ali, Gene Wilder, Arnold Palmer, Florence Henderson, Sharon Jones, Leon Russell, Leonard Cohen, Gwen Ifill, John Glenn, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds. This isn’t even the entire list. NO. MORE. JUST. STOP.
Please people, for the love of all things decent, beautiful, harmonious, and truthful, DO NOT SKIP THE PEAS! 2017 is gonna be weird and strange on its own. We are in unchartered waters and we are literally going where no man has gone before. Let’s not add some crazy fuel to the fire. PEAS, PEOPLE! PLEASE!