I wasn’t familiar with black-eyed peas until I have married into a Southern family. Those small, creamy-flavored beans with a ‘black eye’ where they were joined to the pod are a Southern good luck tradition for New Year’s Day, one with deep roots in African-American culture.
People in the South will tell you that the tradition dates back to the American Secession War. Black-eyed peas were considered animal food. According to a legend, when General Sherman’s Union troops raided the Confederate food supplies, they took everything except the peas and salted pork. The Confederate soldiers considered themselves lucky to be left with those meager supplies and survived the winter. Peas became a symbol of luck.