Cornyn: Cooking good luck | Forum

By John Cornyn

As Christmas carols fill the wintry air, candles are lit to celebrate, and seasonal dishes are shared by loved ones, this time of year is always marked by happy holiday traditions. With 2022 on the horizon, resolutions for the coming year are on the minds of many of us.

While there are many ways to celebrate the start of a New Year, a trip to the grocery store to buy black-eyed peas is a good place to start.

According to this timeless Southern tradition, eating a black-eyed pea on New Year’s Day brings good luck for the year to come. Also known as cowpea or southern beans, black-eyed peas actually originate from West Africa and are part of the region’s cuisine.

Today, many Texans take advantage of a bowl of black-eyed peas on New Years Day to bring good luck and prosperity at the start of the new calendar year. In fact, Athens is known as the “black-eyed peas capital of the world”. In 1971, this east Texas city hosted the first annual summer “Black-Eyed Pea Jamboree,” and over the years, this festival has attracted many famous Texas country artists, including Willie Nelson, Ronny Milsap and the Bellamy Brothers, whose familiar tunes attract families. of all ages to enjoy this celebration.

While there are many origin stories behind this New Year’s Eve tradition, the Texas Department of Agriculture traces it back to the days of the Civil War. It was common for Union soldiers to burn the crops of the South, however, these soldiers spared the black-eyed peas because they viewed them as food for cattle. The leftovers of the black-eyed pea crop saved Confederate troops and southern communities from starvation.

But how did black-eyed peas become a Lone Star staple? In 1909, JB Henry, a businessman from Athens, began cultivating blackeye peas in large quantities after discovering how to dry them, making it a more convenient agricultural product to ship around the world.

In the late 1930s canning factories sprang up in East Texas, and by the 1970s these local Texan companies became the largest producers of blackeye peas in the world. As production has slowed down, you can still find plenty of local farmers and gardeners growing the peas that put Athens on the map.

How could our fellow Texans whip up this New Year’s staple? They could make it an appetizer like a black-eyed pea dip or Texas caviar, a salad made with black-eyed peas, an assortment of vegetables, and a dressing. Typically, Texas caviar is also served with another Texas favorite, tortilla chips.

Another way to serve black-eyed peas is to cook them as a simple side dish for the family dinner table. Add a kick with a little jalapeño spice or a little more heat by pairing it with fresh cornbread and butter.

Along with the tradition of black-eyed peas, other southerners believe that eating certain green vegetables, such as cabbage, collard greens, kale and spinach, also brings good luck for the New Year.

It doesn’t matter if you are using canned, dried, or fresh black-eyed peas, don’t forget to serve this dish in any form to celebrate the New Year.

Even if you are not superstitious, gather around a pot of black-eyed peas and celebrate this tradition with your family, friends and loved ones.

– John Cornyn, a Republican, is the first United States Senator from Texas.

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