It’s a new year, which offers us all a chance to start fresh. After 2020, we seem to need this more than ever. For this month’s posting, we are diving into 2021 with a recipe for Black-Eyed Peas!

Did you know that black-eyed peas are considered good luck to eat on or around the New Year? The roots for this particular belief originate in the southern United States.  However, like many superstitions, there are a few variations of the story behind it. Apparently, during the Civil War black-eyed peas were not considered worthy of serving to General William Tecumseh Sherman’s Union troops. Therefore, when Union troops raided Confederate food supplies, all that they left behind were black-eyed peas and salt pork. In spite of much of their food being taken, legend has it that the Confederates were able to subsist on the black-eyed peas and salt pork and thus survived through winter. As a result, black-eyed peas became a symbol for good luck.

Another story that also dates to the Civil War involves enslaved people. Like the Confederates, slaves were left with meager food supplies, which included black-eyed peas. Following the Emancipation Proclamation, freed slaves found black-eyed peas were one of the only foods available with which to celebrate their new freedom. As the Emancipation Proclamation officially came into effect in January of 1863, eating black-eyed peas became associated with the New Year as well as a celebration of new freedom.

Lastly, black-eyed peas are a fairly hardy crop. They store well and last through winter, so perhaps their simple hardiness is the reason for their auspicious folklore.  Whatever the reason, we hope you enjoy this recipe that was served on many a Denver and Rio Grande Western dining car! If you try it, please let us know how it turned out via our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram pages.

Denver & Rio Grande Western’s Boiled Black-Eyed Peas, from Dining By Rail by James D. Porterfield.

2 ¾ quarts ham stock
1 large carrot
2 outside stalks of celery
1 bay leaf
1 cup bacon, diced
½ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
1 pound black-eyed peas, washed thoroughly

In 3-quart saucepan, bring the 2 ¾ quarts of ham stock to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until reduced to 2 quarts. Combine remaining ingredients in saucepan and return to a boil. Reduce heat and slow boil for approximately 2 hours, until the beans are tender. Remove carrot and celery. Serve hot with chopped parsley on top.

Some examples of D&RG and D&RGW menus from the Colorado Railroad Museum collection.


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