Until I reached adulthood, New Year’s Eve was a lame holiday. If I was lucky, my parents would stay up with me to watch the ball drop on TV, otherwise, it was a dud. I’d sit in my room, watching the clock and feeling sorry for myself because I was the only person in the house who wasn’t sleeping at midnight.
When I was about 19, my parents not only stayed up, but they took me to a huge New Year’s bash at a South Carolina yacht club. I’d never partied with my parents as an adult, and it was a real eye-opener.
We started the evening with a fairly civilized sit-down dinner, in the restaurant overlooking the docks. Then we moved upstairs for live music and dancing, and folks started drinking heavily. One guy was running around with a lampshade on his head, and everyone was tooting on noisemakers and cutting loose. It was a side of my parents, and their 60-something friends, that I’d never seen, and I was shocked, amazed, and a little appalled.
In the wee hours of the morning, all the party-goers staggered back down to the restaurant, where our admission included a huge southern breakfast. Now, my mother always told me, “If you eat just one black-eyed pea on New Year’s day, you’ll have good luck all year.” And there, in a place of honor among the eggs and bacon and biscuits and gravy, was a steaming bowl of black-eyed peas with collard greens.
I’ve seen a couple of explanations why black-eyed peas are considered lucky food to eat on New Year’s Day. One website attributes it to the siege of Vicksburg, when folks had nothing to eat but “cowpeas.” Sure beats cowpies! Some folks say it’s because the little spot on the black-eyed pea makes it look like a coin. Sorry, I’m not fooled by that one. If you can’t tell your coins from black-eyed peas, you’ve got a real financial crisis.
I always dig into the black-eyed peas on New Year’s day for two simple reasons. One, I like ’em. And two, my Momma told me to!
Here’s the way I like ’em best, in Cowboy Caviar.