One of my maternal grandmother’s superstitions, and there were many, is that one must eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day every year for good luck. While growing up, there was never any explanation why black-eyed peas were lucky. The most plausible explanation I’ve since found is that it’s a Southern thing dating to the Civil War.
As the story goes, General Sherman’s troops confiscated all the proper food leaving only black-eyed peas. People considered themselves lucky to have them rather than starving. A tradition was born. I don’t know whether that is the source of the superstition but it’s as good an explanation as any. None of that mattered growing up, of course. My grandmother was a formidable woman and “because I said so” was more than sufficient reason to include them in the menu. I moved away from home 40 years ago. My grandmother died almost 30 years ago. And I still make black-eyed peas every year on New Year’s Day. This year they are made with onion, tomatoes, left-over pork tenderloin, black pepper & Sriracha. Hopefully they will be tasty. It doesn’t really matter. I’ll eat a couple of spoons full and consider my familial obligation satisfied for another year.
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“Pumpkin pie is the essence of mediocrity. The very best pumpkin pie you ever tasted is practically indistinguishable from the very worst pumpkin pie you ever tasted.” ……. Garrison Keillor
Because we spent Thanksgiving at a neighbor’s home this year, I did not make pumpkin pie. I also didn’t have a birthday cake this year. Hardly the stuff of a Lifetime movie plot, but these two gaps are, nonetheless, unusual. My birthday was a Sunday so, rather than going out to dinner, I opted for brunch. We had drinks but no cake.
Somewhere along the way I decided to cure these deficiencies by making a pumpkin pie. I bought the ingredients and then proceeded to get ill and never made the pie. I thought about making it on Christmas but Harper’s Other Dad was out of town and the idea of sitting by the Christmas tree, ill, alone, eating a whole pie and probably listening to Judy sing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”…. or Karen sing “Merry Christmas, Darling” sounded just a little too… something. In any case, I made the pie to go with New Year’s Eve dinner. Only time will tell whether pumpkin pie on New Year’s Eve has legs as a tradition. Traditions have developed from less. We grill marinated flank steak every year on Halloween….. because we do. That sounds like something Sheldon would say on The Big Bang Theory.