As ubiquitous as champagne and confetti on New Year’s Eve, black-eyed peas are a staple in African-American homes come January 1.
Like its soul-food kin, hoppin’ John, as the peas are called when cooked with rice, is rooted in slave culture and has been eaten throughout the South for good luck on New Year’s Day (alongside collard greens, which are said to bring money, and cornbread for good health).
According to Andrew F. Smith’s “Oxford Companion To American Food And Drink,” the dish rose to prominence in South Carolina’s low country, where rice-growing slaves from West Africa prepared it in dishes based on those they made in their homeland. And though it started out as a tradition among slaves, its inclusion in an 1847 cookbook called “The Carolina Housewife” by Sarah Rutledge signaled its acceptance in upper-class kitchens as well.
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