Ingredient of the Week, December 30: Black Eyed Peas
The black-eyed pea, also known as the cow pea, is thought to have originated in North Africa, where it has been eaten for centuries. It may have been introduced into India as long as 3,000 years ago, and was also a staple of Greek and Roman diets. The peas were probably introduced to the New World by Spanish explorers and African slaves, and have become a common food in the southern United States, where they are available dried, fresh, canned, and frozen. The flavorful peas are used to make soups, salads, fritters, and casseroles; they can also be puréed; or sprouted .
The story of THE BLACK EYED PEA being considered good luck relates directly back to Sherman's Bloody March to the Sea in late 1864. Having made unsatisfactory progress against a smaller and less well-equipped Confederate forces, union President Abraham Lincoln issued a new battle order - attack and destroy the civilians, women, children and elderly behind enemy lines.
It was called The Savannah Campaign and was lead by Major General William T. Sherman. The Civil War campaign began on 11/15/64 when Sherman 's troops marched from the captured city of Atlanta, Georgia, and ended at the port of Savannah on 12/22/1864.
When the smoke cleared, the Southerners who had survived the onslaught came out of hiding. They found that the aggressors had looted and stolen everything of value and everything you could eat including all livestock and crops. Death and destruction were everywhere. While in hiding, few had enough to eat, and starvation was now upon the survivors.
There was no international aid, no Red Cross meal trucks. The Northern army had taken everything they could carry and eaten everything they could eat. They burned the rest. But they couldn’t take it all. The devastated people of the south found for some unknown reason that Sherman ’s bloodthirsty troops had left silos full of black eyed peas.
At the time in the north, the lowly black eyed pea was only used to feed stock. The Union troops saw it as the thing of least value. Taking grain for their horses and livestock and other crops to feed themselves, they just couldn’t take everything. So they left the black eyed peas in great quantities assuming it would be of no use to the survivors, since all the livestock it could feed had either been taken or eaten.
Southerners awoke to face a new year in this devastation and were facing massive starvation
if not for the good luck of having the black eyed peas to eat. From New Years Day 1866 forward, the tradition grew to eat black eyed peas on New Year’s Day for good luck.
Do you have black eyed peas on New Year's Day?