Remember to eat black-eyed peas

Published 7:11 pm Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Superstition is borne of ignorance.

If that’s a fact, there are a lot of not too smart folks around these parts.

Local grocery stores and, probably most grocery stores in the South, are running low on black-eyed peas, collard greens and turnip greens as New Year’s Day approaches.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

But those purchasing the “good luck” holiday foods maintain that they are not superstitious, just following an old Southern tradition.

“You’re supposed to eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day so that you’ll have good luck all year long,” said Fannie Wambles, who was shopping for dried peas and collard greens on Tuesday afternoon. “I eat them because I love them… and for good luck. And, they must bring good luck because I always eat them on New Year’s and I’m 91 years old. So something good has come of them.”

Black-eyed peas could be the source of the fountain of youth. Wambles doesn’t discount it.

Neither did her friends, Pauline Conner and Carolyn Peavy, who were also shopping “the Pig” for the traditional New Year’s Day menu.

“I cook my peas with hog jowl,” Peavy said. “It’s the best seasoning in the world for dried black-eye peas.”

The ladies had no idea why the New Year’s Day peas have to be dried peas.

“I don’t know, Peavy said. “I just know that’s what we always had, so that’s what I have. They aren’t hard to fix. I just soak them for about an hour and put them on to cook with the hog jowl and there’s nothing better.”

Conner said she cooks greens on New Year’s so that she’ll have green money all during the year.

All three New Year’s Day shoppers said they are “still living” and that’s about the luckiest thing that has happened to them. As they pushed a buggy out of the grocery store heavily laden with collard greens, black-eyed peas and hog jowl, they laughing said they’re just carrying on an old Southern tradition.

Stanley Garrett, owner of the Pig in Brundidge, said his store will sell about 1,200 pounds of black-eyed peas for New Year’s “traditions.”

“And 99 percent of those are dried peas,” he said. “We’ve tried offering specials on canned peas but people don’t want them. They just want dried peas.”

Garrett said he’s not sure whether it’s superstition or tradition that drives the sale of black-eyed peas and greens, but either way, it’s a “custom” that is here to stay.

“When we were growing up, my granddaddy, Dutch Parish, would tell us that we’d get a dollar for every pea that we ate on New Year’s,” he said. “That was just a way to get us to eat the peas. But it worked. We wanted those dollars.”

Landon Bassett said, he’s not superstitious about black-eyed peas but he is about some things – like walking under a ladder and a black cat crossing his path.

But not one among the black-eyed pea eaters has ever danced around a tree at midnight on New Year’s Eve to guarantee good health in the coming year.

“We not superstitious,” they said laughing. “We don’t have to dance around a tree to have good health because we eat blackeyed-peas and collard greens.”