Friday, January 2, 2009

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening and belated happy new year greetings, from New York.

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.


  1. Frances that bug is doing the rounds over here as well. Malc had it in December. Your avatar is very appropriate and I like it a lot. It's from one of your paintings I think.
    There were lots of skimpily clad folks out in the cold here as well.
    Keep warm.

  2. Happy New Year Frances!

    Maybe you had what we call "Winter vomiting disease" or Norovirus? I had it one New Years Eve, in the midst of a theatre trip. This year two of my friends had it, it may not be something that you ate although I did blame food at the time.

    Also doing the rounds here is flu and I am forever telling people to wrap up warm, wear a scarf, hat etc. The young take no heed!

    In the midst of your busy NY city life I hope you find time to create. The exhibition you describe sounds wonderful, I love wood cut prints best of all, so Frances, get out those tools in 2009! Maybe you could post a tutorial for beginners like me?

  3. Poor Frances - I am glad you are feeling better - tea is the universal restorative. A Happy New Year to you, from the freezing Cotswolds.

  4. Hope you are feeling better, Frances.Doc Tiggy recommends Cider Vinegar and Honey. See health forum. May all that you wish for be yours in 09. Love your avatar. Can't just recall the name of your English Muffins, but I always have them for brekkie in U.S.- much chewier than the ones here. Weather very mild here in Ireland.

  5. Oh poor you Frances. What a shame to begin the year like that. I do hope you feel better by now.
    I wish you a joyful and fulfilling year.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Happy New Year Frances and I do hope that you will be feeling on top form again soon. I so like English Muffins and tea, they really are a good cure for when you have been feeling less than chipper. I too am amazed at the tough young and their bare middles and legs, Me I am all for my vest tucked in and my wool tights pulled up!! Love the cup and saucer I would love to see the rest of the painting when it is finished.
    Love Blossom

  8. i think english muffins are even luckier than black-eyed peas.

    i like the idea of a midnight mini-marathon with fireworks. but like you, i'd enjoy the fireworks from the warmth of my bedroom.

    happy new year.

  9. Lots of sick people round this way too. Glad you are better now Frances. I'd be interested to see your different muffins and crumpets and try them! A muffin and a crumpet are totally different things but I like them both. Happy New Year.

  10. The Black-Eyed Peas are a (musical) group over here Frances.

    Glad your bug didn't linger and so pleased to be able to read your blog again, thank you.

  11. Dear Frances,

    I am pleased that you are now feeling much better afterthat nasty tummy bug.

    I have heard of black eyes peas, have never tasted them though. As for muffins I adore them, I used to call them crumpets, and loved them toasted with lashings of jam.

    Such a pretty cup you have painted Frances, and I adore china.

    May the new year be a good peaceful one for you my friend.


  12. Glad to see you back in the blogosphere - but trust you are feeling better?
    We missed you.
    Yes, I do envy youth their disdain for the weather. I thought it was perishing cold.
    We went to friends in our building on New Year's Eve.
    A good outing for oldies.
    Daughter and boyfriend are flying back to England as I write.
    They lead a more exotic life than I do......
    Hoping to see you soon.

  13. Happy New Year, Frances! I'm sorry to read that you were ill during the night but glad to read that you recovered enough to enjoy tea and an English Muffin. I remember that when we lived in Philadelphia I used to enjoy the ones made by a particular company - Pepperidge Farms - yummy!

  14. I hope you are feeling better now, Frances. I must say I would prefer a cup of tea and a buttered muffin to black-eyed peas!
    On Hogmanay my youngest son played his bagpipes outside and we all shouted Happy New Year to you across the ocean. xx

  15. Yes, those skimpily clad youngsters were out and about in this part of the world, too. Whyever do they do it? Sorry to hear about your ailment & hope you're better now. Cup of tea and an English muffin sounds like just the ticket.


    A very happy New Year to you.

  16. Oh Francis, what bad luck to start the New Year feeling poorly. If it is any consolation, everyone over here seems to have the same bug. I do hope you are feeling better now.

  17. I came upon your blog via the Welsh Hills and have added it to my blogs to visit - I was only thinking the other day that none of the blogs I visit is in New York.
    May I ask if that portrait in the sidebar is a self-portrait and, if so, what the medium is.

  18. Oh poor you Frances. I hope the bug has well and truly gone and that this year will be a very happy and peaceful one where you manage to use your wonderful creativity even more. xx

  19. Happy New Year, Frances! And I love the painting in your avatar - maybe someday when you have time to paint more I shall commission you to do one for me!
    A beautifully evocative piece of writing of New Year's Eve in New York, Frances. Sorry to hear you were ill - we were in bed well before midnight too as my husband was ill with the cold/flu bug.
    We ate soup and pizza on New Year's day, neither of which sounds lucky to me, but both of which were very comforting!

  20. Happy New Year Frances - let's be optimistic and hope it's a good one. I look forward to more of your observations of city life. Best wishes.

    PS Love the avatar - it's really 'you'.

  21. You poor girl slipping into New Year with a bug! However, breaking the fast with a good cup of tea and English muffins was a very fine send-off (what would I give for a toasted Thomas' English muffin, with a tad of sweet butter pooling in the center, covered by or with a spoonful of orange marmelade, to form a perfect marriage!)! :-)

    I took my last visitor (from my old home in DC) to the train station today. Those departures are always so bittersweet, filled with thankfulness for having met again, and sadness for having to part anew. Everybody wants me to finally come back to the States, it's been more than three years now, but I still shudder at the thought of having to leave again.

  22. Happy New Year, Frances and so sorry to be delayed. Trust you are now well and completely recovered. Maybe you should have eaten the beans after all and they would have protected you from your travails. But what, I am itching to ask is this marvellous (well with a name like that it must be) 'Hopping John' dish and however did it get its name? I wonder whether you could give us the recipe and we could all have a mass Hopping John Cook-in on PC. We need a signature dish and with our second anniversary coming up in April, who knows, the Calpol and bRandy slammers (why spelt that bizarre way?) might be soaked up with Hopping John. And if not our anniversary then how about the Obama inauguration? On which I am relying on you for a full report!

  23. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  24. Hi Frances, and a happy new year to you too!
    Hope you're feeling better now.
    You talk of the view from my window but I imagine living near Central Park to be the most wonderful place to be. I vistied about 13 years ago(yikes, is it really that long ago!) and loved, loved, loved it! It's such an exciting city and I was like an overexcited child when we arrived!
    As for the skimpily clad youngsters I remember all too well venturing out on a cold December night wearing very little, somehow you don't feel the cold when young, it kicks in at around 30!
    Julia xx

  25. Hope you are feeling fighting fit now Francis, I prefer crumpets to muffins I must admit, we have to ask people to bring them over.

  26. Skip the peas and don't worry - I'll send you lots of luck from west Wales and every good wish for the New Year. I know you're busy but I do love it when you have time to post.

  27. Hello Frances,
    Thank you for visiting my blog; I'm now looking forward to reading yours, too. Happy New Year to you.
    Hen x

  28. Hi Frances,
    I've been enjoying your blog since I discovered you from Gretel at Middle of Nowhere! I'm an artist in Maine but have heard of that stomach bug from relatives in New York glad that you are better. Wishing you a happy, healthy New Year and that you have time to do more of your art in 2009.
    best wishes,