America is a melting pot that was formed by the hard-working people who migrated here from lands as far east as China and Japan and as far north as Russia and Europe. They utilized American supplies and prepared them in ways that they had prepared them in their homeland.
True American food is a collection of these culinary traditions passed down from generation to generation”.Each culture brought their cooking methods, food, and spices to America. They farmed the soil, hunted game, and incorporated their ways into the food of America.
Cultivated since prehistoric times in China and India, black-eyed peas are related to the mung bean. The ancient Greeks and Romans preferred them to chickpeas. Black-eyed peas are believed to have been first domesticated near Africa’s Lake Chad in what is now northeastern Nigeria and northern Cameroon. They were brought to the West Indies by enslaved West Africans, as early as 1674.
Most black-eyed pea cultivation occurred in the Southern United States. The crop would eventually prove popular in Texas. Throughout the South, the black-eyed pea is still a widely used ingredient in soul food and southern cuisine. The planting of black-eyed peas was promoted by George Washington Carver because it provided exceptional nutrition. As a legume, it adds nitrogen to the soil and contains calcium (41 mg), folate (356 μg), protein (13.22 g), fiber (11.1 g) and vitamin A (26 IU), along with other nutrients per serving.
Black-eyed peas are in season in the South during July and August but they are popular dried for use in Hopping John, a New Year’s dish believed to bring luck for the year to come. Though black-eyed peas (also known as cowpeas) have no folkloric connection in West Africa to money (some people believe the peas symbolize coins), they have long been associated with good luck for several reasons. One belief was that the “black eyes” of the pea would protect one from the dreaded “evil eye”—a negative spell cast by one’s enemies. Others ate black-eyed peas on auspicious occasions. For example, on Good Friday, a cowpea-and-coconut-custard combination called frejon is a traditional meal in parts of West Africa. Additionally, a dish called ewa-Ibeji (which translates as “Beans for Twins”) was originally cooked with oil and only for ailing twin children, but now it is ceremonially prepared for healthy twins. In some traditional West African religions, black-eyed peas were prepared to worship a deity — if it was believed to be their favorite food — on ceremonial days.
My CSA share of black-eyed peas was generous this year and I decided to cook them in an untraditional way. They did make for delicious BBQ beans. Here is my recipe.
BBQ Black-Eyed Peas
2 slices bacon, diced
1 large sweet onion diced
1 medium jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 ½ cups ketchup
1 cup of water
1/4 cup cider vinegar
¼ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon dry yellow mustard powder
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
½ teaspoon salt
4 cups fresh black-eyed peas, washed
Place the peas in a large saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil for 2-3 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let stand for 60-90 minutes. Drain the peas in a colander.
In the same pot, brown the bacon, onion, jalapeno, and garlic. Add all the remaining ingredients except the black-eyed peas and bring the sauce to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and stir in the peas. Partially cover the pan and cook until the peas are very soft and the liquid thickens about 2-3 hours.