Peas on earth, good luck and fortune for all

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Along with making New Year&8217;s resolutions, many of us will hope to usher in a successful new year by eating black-eyed peas, greens and cornbread next week. Such a tradition has always been a part of our family ritual and I expect it is of your family.

But what I always wonder as we sit down to New Year&8217;s lunch is &8220;What is it about these foods that makes them and those that eat them lucky?&8221;

Many of you are bound have your own theory or have heard explanations of this legend before. But for younger generations who think lucky foods on New Year&8217;s are just a sly way parents get you to eat your vegetables, here&8217;s where it all started.

According to one legend, during the Civil War Northern soldiers raided a Southern camp and ate most of the food. Black-eyed peas and salted pork were the only food left for Southern soldiers to eat on New Year&8217;s, so now today they are considered lucky.

Another possible answer is that when William Sherman went on his crop-burning march through Georgia, the black-eyed pea crops were left alone because Northern soldiers thought they were weeds.

Another, and to me the most plausible, explanation is that in the 19th century, farmers didn&8217;t know much about soil chemistry, but they understood black-eyed peas don&8217;t deplete soil of certain nutrients. Thus, black-eyed peas are a good crop for rotation. If a farmer had enough black-eyed peas from last summer to cook them on New Year&8217;s Day, it meant many were planted last summer, so the soil would be good in the New Year. From there, the superstitious evolved into eating black-eyed peas on New Year&8217;s Day to good luck the following year.

An old adage explains the myth behind other southern foods, which represent &8220;peas for pennies, greens for dollars and cornbread for gold.&8221;

Regardless of the credibility of the story and despite the old superstition not always holding true, it&8217;s a favorite southern tradition nonetheless. Besides, our stories, superstitions and traditions are what truly make us Southerners lucky anyway.

Here&8217;s hoping the New Year brings you and those you care for health, happiness and prosperity