With a new year there is such hope and promise, and a new decade seems to increase that by tenfold.

There are many superstitions or urban legends of what to do and what to eat to increase your luck as a new year begins. One of those traditions, especially in the South, is to serve black-eyed peas.

Some say that eating black-eyed peas and collards for the new year brings prosperity with the peas being a symbol for coins and collards for green paper money.

Others consider black-eyed peas good luck in the South because these little peas were originally used for livestock feed. The Yankees thought they were unfit for man to eat and left them untouched during the Civil War, which was a stroke of luck for the Confederacy when food was scarce.

This speckled pea is actually a bean and a member of the legume family and dates back to the ancient Middle East where it is said to be first cultivated.

The black-eyed pea made its way to the US from early African slaves and is a staple in Soul Food.

Hoppin’ John is a favorite recipe using the black-eyed pea and has become a mainstream Southern dish.

The restaurant for its namesake Hoppin’ Johns in Elizabeth City offers a wonderful take on the dish highlighting pork cheeks and Carolina Gold rice. They also offer both a black-eyed pea hummus as well as a Carolina caviar with confit pork belly as appetizers.

A recipe nearly as popular as hoppin’ john using the black-eyed pea is in a salsa or caviar with onions, peppers, tomatoes and seasonings.

Other preparations include a gumbo, stew, salad or even a fritter. It can be used in any recipe calling for a bean.

A popular use is in a soup, and many even make a soup with both black-eyed peas and collards for extra luck in the new year.

I had a wonderful bowl of soup made by Brian Harvill that used both of these tasty southern staples, and also had ham.

Cynthia Harding also makes a fabulous version of this soup.

This week I have included my version for a soup using the black-eyed pea.


Cheryl Orr is owner of the Cotton Gin Inn.