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McClellan: Black-eyed peas for good luck in 2017

By Barbara McClellan
Dec. 28, 2016 at 1:46 p.m.
Updated Jan. 11, 2017 at 1:46 p.m.


It is almost impossible to believe that this is the last "from my kitchen" of the year. Honestly, it seems as though only a month ago we were welcoming the 2016 New Year, and now it is over.

I am not sure from where this vast piece of wisdom sprang: the days go slowly, but the years go fast. It could have come from a sixth-grader (sometimes they are very profound in a simple way), or perhaps it came from the marvelous waster of time called Facebook.

It is hard to keep up with the rapid passing of time. Women date things, I have found, from the birth of our children, the towns or houses where we lived or various family events, weddings, funerals, etc. Men, I have observed, remember things by football/baseball/basketball scores and team wins or vehicles they have owned. Admittedly, this is not a scientific study, simply observations from conversations where men are gathered in one group and women in another at a party, meeting, etc.

Well, however it happened, it is time to get ready for New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. If you are new to the South, you might not be familiar with our habit of eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day (or our fear of not eating them, fearing the bad luck that will come in the following year).

I have found many explanations for this obligatory food. I think the answer that makes the most sense is this one: "field peas were easily grown in the South, and when there was a good crop, the peas were dried for food the winter months when there was a scarcity of food. Usually, there was very little fresh food near New Year's Day except perhaps cabbage and onions that were stored in cellars, so the dried vegetables were a way of surviving the cold winter months."

Well, whatever the reason, I would venture to say that the majority of people below the Mason-Dixon Line will have some form of black-eyed peas this coming weekend.

The first recipe, one for peas, of course, was given to me by our neighbors in Pasadena during the '60s. I taught there while my late husband, Ken Richardson, finished his degree at the University of Houston.

We shared not only recipes, but dishes of food on a regular basis.

Les Frolick's Hot Peas

  • 4 slices bacon, crisply cooked

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped

  • 3 (15 ounces) cans black-eyed peas, not drained

  • 1 (10 ounces) can Rotel tomatoes with green chilies, not drained

  • 1 (15 ounce can) diced tomatoes, drained

Remove bacon from deep skillet or pan, and sauté onions in bacon fat. Cook until onions are soft. Add remaining ingredients and cover. Simmer until juice is thickened. About 45 minutes. Crumble bacon and add before serving. Makes about 12-14 servings.

Dawn Powell and I are among several who worked at the "old" Forest Part Middle School, and are now at the "new" (about 6 years old) school. One year, Dawn brought this dip to the faculty Christmas party. It remains a favorite of mine, just as she, too, is a favorite.

Dawn's Armored Dip

  • 3 (8 ounces) packages cream cheese, softened

  • 1/4 cup milk

  • 1 jar dried beef, chopped

  • 1 bunch green onions, including tops

  • 1 small bell pepper (green or red), finely chopped

  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Mix cream cheese with milk. Add remaining ingredients. Refrigerate overnight or several hours. Serve with crackers or raw vegetables.

— Barbara Richardson McClellan is a longtime food columnist and has written three self-published cookbooks. Her column appears in the News-Journal's Taste section each Wednesday. Write her at bayrm12@gmail.com or in the care of the Longview News-Journal, P.O. Box 1792, Longview, TX 75606.

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