Health, money, tradition. What's not to like?
Each of the three is often cited as a reason to eat black-eyed peas on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day.
"The black-eyed peas are a measure of your fortune for the coming year," said Tony Burgess of Red Bank. "The more you eat, the better, in other words."
The tradition, depending on the source, may go back to a food consumed at Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), as recorded in the Babylonian Talmud, compiled in A.D. 500. Or it may date to the Civil War, when rampaging Union troops typically stripped the Southern countryside but left the field peas thought to be only suitable for animals.
Many people prefer them, as does Times Free Press Facebook fan Pamela Calbaugh Sneed, "straight up ... out of the Crock-Pot."
Other black-eyed pea fans, who responded to an online question of how they like their peas, mentioned they ate them with various combinations of ham, cornbread, hog jowl, collard greens, cabbage, corned beef, turnip greens, stewed tomatoes and chowchow.
Meanwhile, Pat Gass and Don Hill of Signal Mountain offer guests individual peas on toothpicks as hors d'oeuvres, and Paul M. Hendricks serves them hot over rice, with a dime included in the pot for good luck.
For those who prefer not to indulge in the noxious odor of the cooking beans, though, Robbie Moore of Hixson, Dan Lumpkin of Fairhope, Ala., and Kimberly Kelley of Flintstone, Ga., suggest three options.
Moore's Black-Eyed Pea Supper Dish is a meal by itself -- with the peas as one of several vegetables -- or may be served with rice and/or cornbread.
"I wish I knew how many times I've made it," Moore said. "It was a staple in our house when my husband and I got home from work and our daughter was starving after rowing practice. It's quick and easy to put together with items you usually have on hand, and [it] is good comfort food as well."
Dan's Black-Eyed Pea Cakes, offered by Lumpkin, uses the peas both processed and whole as part of the basis for patties that have the texture of mashed potato cakes
"I have never found anyone who doesn't love them," he said. "I usually serve them with Green Tomato Relish [Braswell's] and sour cream in separate bowls so people can add the toppings to their taste. However, I like to put some green tomato relish on top, then sour cream on top of that."
Kelley didn't suggest a recipe for Poor Man's Caviar, but one from AllRecipes.com is probably typical of the dish, which can be served as an appetizer or a side.
So make the dishes for the taste or the nutrition -- they're low in fat and sodium, contain no cholesterol, and are high in potassium, iron and fiber -- and maybe the health and wealth will follow.
"My grandparents always told me if you eat black-eyed peas and hog jowl, you will have money," said Paula Nunley Braden of Coalmont, Tenn. "So I did this, and I have been broke ever since."
Contact Clint Cooper at email@example.com or 423-757-6497.
Dan's Black-eyed Pea Cakes
1 small onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 (15.5-ounce) cans black-eyed peas
1 (8-ounce) container chive- and onion-flavored cream cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1 (8-ounce) package hush puppy mix with onion
Toppings: sour cream, green tomato relish
Sauté onion in 1 tablespoon hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until tender.
Process onion, one can of peas (drained), cream cheese, egg, salt and hot sauce in a blender or food processor until mixture is smooth, occasionally scraping sides. Add hush puppy mix and gently fold in remaining can of peas. Texture should be like mashed potato cakes.
Shape mixture by 2 tablespoonfuls into 3-inch patties and place on wax-paper-lined baking sheet. Cover and chill for at least one hour.
Cook patties in batches, in 3 tablespoons of hot oil, adding more oil as needed, in a large skillet over medium heat for 11/2 minutes per side or until patties are golden brown. Drain patties on paper towels and keep them warm. Serve with desired toppings.
Dan Lumpkin, Fairhope, Ala.
Poor Man's Caviar
1 (14-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15.5-ounce) can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1 (14-ounce) can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can white corn, drained
1 cup finely chopped Vidalia or other sweet onion
2 gloves garlic, minced
1 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh basil
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, or to taste
Stir the black beans, black-eyed peas, garbanzo beans, white corn, onion, garlic, parsley and basil together in bowl.
To make the dressing, mix olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, dry mustard and hot sauce together in a small bowl until well blended. Pour over the bean mixture and toss the mix evenly. Refrigerator for 24 hours before serving.
Black-Eyed Pea Supper
1/2 pound bulk breakfast sausage
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 cup canned diced tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 can black-eyed peas
1/2 to 1 cup grated cheese
Cook sausage in large frying pan, crumbling with fork as it cooks. Drain fat from skillet. Add green pepper, onion and garlic. Cook 5 minutes, stirring vegetables into sausage.
Add tomatoes (may substitute Rotel for extra punch) and seasonings. Stir well. Add peas with liquid in can. Cover and simmer slowly for 15 minutes. Serve very hot, sprinkled with grated cheese.
-- Robbie Moore, Hixson