Congressman Ted Poe (TX-02)
Here we are again, the beginning of a new year and all sorts of resolutions abound to start out 2010 on a good note. The gyms are packed and the whole wheat bread and veggies are scares in the groceries stores. Of course by mid February, the cookie aisle will be bare and you should be able to get a close parking spot at the gym.
However, there are some traditions that endure year after year, particularly in the South where we seem to value our heritage and culture a little more than our friends to the north. And, itís absolutely impossible to achieve any success in the new year without adhering to one of our most treasured traditions.
Since I grew up in Texas, black eyed peas and football were to norm for my family, and everyone I knew, on New Yearís Day. Everyone had to have at least one bite for good luck, like it or not, it was the rule. It wasnít until I met my first ìnon-southernerî that I realized this was a southern thing unique only unto us.
There are stories that date the ìgood luckî tradition all the way back the pharaohs of Egypt, but for us it goes back to the War Between the States. During General Shermanís March to the Sea in late December 1864, he ordered the Union troops to ìburn and destroyî everything and ìleave a trail that will be recognized fifty years hence.î
In the aftermath of the devastation, the only fields that were spared were the crops of black eyed peas and corn. The Yankees considered that food for the livestock and didnít waste time burning them, thereby leaving them as the only real source of food left for the starving southerners. As a result, black eyed peas were seen as the saving grace of the South and became a sentimental symbol of better days that lie ahead.
Now there are a lot of theories on why we must eat them on New Yearís Day, but they all revolve around the principle that they bring good luck and prosperity in the coming year. Every family has a different way of cooking them. If youíre from the South you can bet your family has a recipe.
In Texas, some just like to serve plain oleí ìEast Texas Caviar.î My friends over in Louisiana like to ìkick it up a notchî and add tomatoes and Cajun spices, some folks make Hoppiní John with rice and hammocks, and most everyone serves them with cornbread and some type of greens such as collard, mustard or turnip greens, or just cabbage or cole slaw to symbolize money. But you canít just eat the greens and expect a prosperous year, you have to have the peas too. Just one bite, itís the rule. (Although some say you have to 365 peas, one for each day or eat ìevery bean and pea on your plateî ñ I leave that one up to you!)
I have even heard of people putting a penny in the pot and whoever gets the penny in their bowl gets the ìbestî luck of the year. Maybe this is like the baby in the King Cake? Whatever the case, it is a tradition that runs deep in the south and I am glad to see that it is still alive and well. Both my grandmothers had their special recipes, and every New Yearís Day I still hound my kids and grandkids to make sure they eat their peas.
So, I hope you all had your black eyed peas and it brings you good luck and prosperity in 2010. And for those you new to the great State of Texas and missed out on this must-do tradition ñ hope it all works out for you! Just kidding. Weíll let you slide this year, but make sure next year you get with the program. Itís a Southern thingÖ
And thatís just the way it is.