WHITTLE: Black-eye peas could offer more than luck

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Fellow fast food fan Fant Smith has resolved to not eat any meal dispersed out of a window during 2013.

As of Tuesday, the day this epic piece of fat-free journalism was penned, Fant had kept his resolution.

Losing weight in 2013 is also one of my resolutions.

I decided to lose blubber when a little angel, bless her heart, referenced me in the hall between Sunday school and church preaching, “You’re not fat, brother Dan. You’re just fluffy.”

So, in addition to committing to swim two and three days a week at the YMCA the rest of this new exciting year, I’m researching methods of weight loss and control.

One physician on the Internet wanted pay for suggesting I could lose weight by consuming green coffee beans. This prescription for green coffee beans might work, if it’s anything like throwing your lips around a batch of green apples.

So, I’m sharing this weight-loss prescription – free of charge – that I learned back in our apple orchard while growing up on the farm. If you eat several green apples in one sitting, you’ll lose weight. Do it with rapid repeat trips back and forth to the outdoor two-holer.

Being in the South, I expect to have good luck with my resolution to dump the pounds, starting with black-eyed peas.

I don’t know why my family, as long as I’ve been around, has always consumed black-eye peas on New Year’s Day.

But, I knew enough to be thankful for some of the best black-eye peas and hog jowl I had this past New Year’s Day when asked to put my feet under the kitchen table at John and Hilda Stuart’s home in Smyrna.

“My cornbread today is a little crusty on one side,” Hilda Stuart said, “but it goes with our tradition of having black-eye peas on New Year’s Day.”

Adding spice to the pile of peas was a jar of relish prepared by former Philadelphia, Miss., country boy Rick Hodgen, who now resides in Murfreesboro.

“Rick’s relish lights up those peas,” said John Stuart, who is also a native of southern Mississippi. “My friendship with the Hodgen family goes back generations in Neshoba County, Miss.”

Neither of the Stuarts could answer my question of why we leave one lone solitary pea on the side of the plate on New Year’s Day. Maybe, one of our university-educated, pea-eating readers can shed light on this part of the Southern black-eye pea tradition.

Southern historian Shirley Ann Ferris Jones, who has authored several books on the Civil War, provided some research about how black-eyed pea consumption in the South.

“It goes back to the Civil War era,” Jones said.

According to research, the tradition of eating black-eye peas goes back to the boots of Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, who reportedly ordered his troops to strip the Southern countryside of all stored food, crops and livestock, and to destroy whatever they could not carry away. In that era, Northerners considered field peas and corn suitable only for animal fodder.

During the hard times in the South after the war, our forefathers probably considered themselves lucky to consume the black-eye peas Northern soldiers had failed to destroy. That’s one theory.

Aunt Durette Reed, may the good Lord rest her good Southern-cooking soul, prepared the tastiest pot of black-eye peas, which were laced with hog jowl, to my ever quivering and hungry lips.

Add green onions and a chunk of good crusty black-skillet fried cornbread made with buttermilk, you have a meal fit for kings.

With that said, I do agree that I’m lucky any day I can consume a pot of black-eye peas, cooked Southern-style.

So, pass Hodgen’s jar of spiced-up relish back to this end of the table, please.

Read more from:
Diet, Health, New Years Day, Voices
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