A Southern New Year's Day supper, black-eyed peas
Recently one of those internet bits of legend or lore has raced across the web purporting to explain the “true story” behind the black-eyed peas tradition.
According to the typical unnamed source, it all goes back to Union General William Tecumseh Sherman and his march to the sea in late 1864. His stated purpose was to destroy the South, burning what he could, stealing crops, cows, food stuffs of all types, so that “a crow flying across the land could not find provenance” as he put it.
All that is true, but the story continues that the only thing left to the starving people of the South were the black-eyed peas still in the fields, since the less savvy Union troops did not realize they were edible.
Figuring that livestock was the only thing that would eat the peas (hence the alternate name of “cow peas”) and since they had stolen all the livestock, there was no use for the peas.
And thus since New Year’s Day 1866, the South has clung to the tradition of eating black-eyed peas on that first day of the year. Or so goes the lore.
Interestingly enough, one can find a dozen sites on the web which say basically the same thing, making one confident that most entries were written by those of the Northern persuasion, bless their hearts, who just didn’t know any better.