New Yearís Day Feast

January 1, the first day of a new year. This is a day for college bowl games, New Yearís resolutions and the traditional New Yearís day dinner. This year was especially nice for my wife and I because our kids are old enough that we can explain some of the traditions and in the process, teach them something about their family history. For starters, I told the kids up front that I was going to spend this day watching football and that there were games on all day long. When my kids would ask me during a game who I was pulling for I would tell them. Then they would ask me why and I would explain my connection with the particular school: Mississippi State rather than Texas in the Cotton Bowl because my fatherís family is from Mississippi and my Grandfather played football for Mississippi State, as well as a lot of family members went to school there; Alabama rather than Virginia Tech in the Music City Bowl because I was born in Alabama, my wife and I met, married and lived in Alabama, both my kids were born there and my dad and my wife both went to school at the University of Alabama. Some games were even easier to explain, like Arkansas and Michigan in the Citrus Bowl: We always root for a Southern team over a Yankee team. This year, however, the teams I was rooting for didnít do as well as they normally do. Still, it was nice to take one day and just sit back and watch sports, something I donít often get a chance to do.

Dinner time came about 1:30 in the afternoon , dinner, to use the term properly, is of course the big meal of the day, and we had the traditional Southern New Yearís day meal. This consisted of black-eyed peas, corn bread, fried okra and sweet tea. We explained why these foods specifically were being served. The black-eyed peas started back during the War for Southern Independence. During the Yankee raiding across the Southland, Northern troops burned or took all the food that was available for Southerners, military and civilian alike. The Northern troops didnít burn the black-eyed peas because they thought they were animal fodder. Because of this good fortune, Southerners began the custom of offering black-eyed peas at New Yearís as good-luck fare. So the black-eyed peas are for good luck. The okra was used this year to replace cabbage (this is something green for money). This year my wife made fried okra because she "knows it makes the country boy she married happy." My daughter asked what the corn bread was for and I said, "Because weíre Southerners." Actually that goes for the sweet tea too. It was a great meal and it took all I had to make it from the table back to my recliner to finish watching the games. One of the best parts of a big meal like this is the left overs that I can have for the next week.

Lest anyone wonder about the story of the black-eyed peas, let me relate another story to support the first. My wife remembers a time when she was growing up as an Air Force brat and they had some neighbors that were a mixed marriage couple (she was a Southerner and he was a Yankee from Illinois). On New Yearís day, the woman would always come over and get a bowl of black-eyed peas from my wifeís mother. The reason was that her husband refused to let her "cook that cow food" in his house. Apparently he was disgusted by the concept of eating black-eyed peas. Over 100 years and Yankees still donít seem to understand what good food is really all about.

Jeff Adams
January 2, 1999