On New Year’s Day, you’ll find people throughout the South eating black-eyed peas for good luck and prosperity in the coming year. While the origins of this tradition may be traced to ancient Egypt, most Southerners will tell you that it dates back to the Civil War. Black-eyed peas were the only food the southern slaves had to celebrate with on January 1, 1863, the day the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect. From then on, peas were always eaten on the first day of January.
In researching this, I found a variety of explanations for the continued consumption of black-eyed peas on the first day of the new year, and none of them are because they taste good or because they’re high in fiber, iron and potassium. Some believe that eating these lowly legumes demonstrates humility and humbleness. “Eat poor on New Year’s, and eat fat the rest of the year.” (Obviously not written by a vegan.) Another explanation is that because dried beans greatly expand in volume, they symbolize expanding wealth. Adding a shiny penny or dime to the pot just before serving is another tradition practiced by some. The person who ends up with the penny or dime in their bowl receives the best luck for the New Year. (Unless the recipient swallows the coin and then all bets are off.)
Some say you should eat exactly 365 black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day. That’s a lot of peas. I’d suggest a new tradition: pureeing them into a pâté. (No coins.) And don’t skip the pickled onions- they are key to what makes this appetizer so good. This recipe is adapted from one I found on the Whole Foods website. May you “eat fat” and prosper in the coming year.
- 2 cups thinly sliced red onion
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
- 1 (15 ounces) can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
- ½ cup toasted pecan pieces
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp water
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
- 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary
- ¼ tsp crushed red pepper
- crackers for serving
- Toast pecans on a cookie sheet in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes, being careful not to burn them.
- Put onion, vinegar, sugar, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ⅓ cup water into a small pot. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer over low-medium heat, stirring occasionally until onion is soft, about 15 minutes; set aside to let cool.
- Meanwhile, purée peas, toasted pecans, lemon juice, olive oil, thyme, rosemary, red pepper, remaining ¼ teaspoon salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon warm water in a food processor until combined but still slightly chunky. If too thick, add a bit more olive oil.
- Drain onions well. Spread pâté on flatbreads or crackers, garnish with onions and serve. You can make both the pâté and pickled onions in advance and store in the fridge for up to 3 days, then all you have to do is assemble before serving.