What is this that I show you in the above picture? It is a jar of dried legumes, that we from the southern part of the United States know as black eyed peas. These are to be eaten on each New Year's Day to ensure luck for the twelve months to follow.
Year after year, I have slow cooked these peas/beans, and either added them to the traditional hopping john dish, involving rice,onions, canned tomatoes, and ham, bacon or some sort of pork. Other years, I have taken these peas and taken them to another global cuisine, involving cumin, turmeric, coriander, garlic and many other interlopers. The basic black eyed pea is very bland and makes an easy base to which many sorts of other seasonings and vegetables might be added.
In my personal history, the jury is out on whether eating these peas does ensure good luck. Yes, I have some very good years, and others that were rather mixed. Luck? Peas? Not sure. I think that the tradition might have its origins in a cure for New Year's Eve hangovers.
Well. This year I worked on New Year's Eve, and we were lucky to be able to close the shop a few hours earlier than the usual hour. I made my way home via the subway train, transferring as usual at the "crossroads of the world" Times Square station, and along the way mingling with lots of other folks just wanting to get home, together with many folks anticipating the revelry just four hours away outdoors, in sub-freezing temperatures and strong winds in Times Square, above ground. I saw some young ladies in bare-legs and mini skirts and praised their courage. I saw some young men who thought a layer of a logo'd sweatshirt would keep them from freezing and praised their courage, and blessed them their youth.
I got home, fixed dinner, called some friends, and turned out my apartment lights well before midnight. The sound of the fireworks from a midnight mini-marathon run in nearby Central Park woke me round midnight, and I thought sweet new year's thoughts. In the next hours, I heard many celebrators on the sidewalks below my bedroom window returning from their festivities.
Around 2 am, I knew I was ill. Probably something that I had eaten. I have an idea of the Prime Suspect, but no proof. After that, I was up about every hour until around dawn.
New Year's Day arrived, and I returned to the land of the living. This year, however, I did not cook the black eyed peas. I did not reach out for the traditional gift of good luck that such a meal would bestow. No. I could not bear the thought of eating them .
I broke my overnight into morning fast early on the afternoon of Jan. 1 with a restoring cup of tea and a buttered English muffin (a sort of American version of a crumpet.) This was delicious and after that feast, I was truly ready to welcome the marvelous opportunities that 2009 might just offer us.
Best wishes to all for the New Year.