Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year, Redux

I'm a pretty early riser; I'm generally up and about by 5:30, no matter what the day of the week. This morning, however, I had a mission: to prepare my annual nosh of black-eyed peas.

As I've said multiple times, I grew up in an Italian/Irish family. While the Irish may have their own New Year's traditions (and I suspect they involve consuming large amounts of alcohol), I only remember my Italian father's way of ringing in the New Year.

Daddy insisted that each of us eat an anchovy for luck. I used to tell him that I'd rather take my chances on bad luck than eat one of those nasty little silvery, salty fish. It did no good. He wasn't satisified until each of his loved ones had at least tasted an anchovy.

When I moved to Texas, it was with relief that I learned people here believe luck comes with a serving of black-eyed peas. When I asked about the origin of the tradition, I was told two different things: First, that black-eyed peas are used to feed cattle and, hence, signify the eater's humility before the Lord. Second, that the tradition dates back to the Civil War when the southern soldiers were forced to eat the cattle feed to stay alive.

At any rate, I have embraced the tradition. Black-eyed peas are ALWAYS the first thing I taste in the New Year. Yesterday, I put two cups of the lentils in a large pot of water to soak overnight. This morning, I got up and chopped up an onion and the rest of the Christmas ham, which I've been saving, put them in the pot with the peas and some spices and set it to simmering. By 8:30 this morning, my New Year's good luck will be ready.

And, wherever I visit today, I know I will be greeted by family and friends with an offer of a small dish of black-eyed peas along with a New Year's hug.

No matter what tradition or belief you embrace, I wish you the best of luck during the coming 365 days.

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