LESLIE CRISS: Room for a few black-eyed peas on New Year’s agenda

By Leslie Criss

“We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives … not looking for flaws, but for potential.”
– Ellen Goodman
Food editor Ginna Parsons wrote in a long-ago food column she’d never really appreciated the “earthy” taste of black-eyed peas.
She was way too kind and classy in her reference to those legumes, long rumored to bring good luck and fortune to those who consume them on the first day of a brand new year.
Quite frankly, I think they taste like dirt, plain and simple.
My grandfather used to tell me I’d make a dollar in the coming year for every pea I ate on New Year’s Day.
Have mercy. I’d make myself sick just trying to eat enough to pay my electric bill. So, I’ll pass on the peas.
Thankfully, peas are not the only dish designated as a harbinger of good fortune if eaten on the first day of a new year.
In some Asian traditions, long noodles are served on New Year’s Day in order to bring long life. Trouble is, the long noodle must not be cut or broken, but snaked into the mouth whole or it won’t work. Can you say – choking hazard?
Cabbage and collard greens are believed by some folks to bring lots of money of the green kind if eaten as a new year dawns.
I can eat collards all day as long as I have some of my dad’s homemade pepper sauce with them.
Cornbread, because of its golden color, is thought to bring good luck in the form of money.
And in Turkey and other Mediterranean countries, pomegranates are believed to bring abundance.
So, I’m not going to sweat the black-eyed peas, but I will plan a menu of greens, cornbread and a pomegranate for dessert. We’ll see if any of it works.
Of course, the new year is not about only food.
For me, the arrival of a new year brings with it a good deal of reflection, on the year ending and what lies ahead.
Rather than make a lengthy list of things I’ll likely soon forget, I resolve to try my very best to make a few important things happen in the coming year.
• I’ll work harder to fill my day planner with people instead of unimportant things that steal time away from those people.
• I’ll work hard to make time to read more good books.
• I will be more disciplined with my writing time and try to complete a personal project about which I’ve talked more than I’ve actually worked.
• And as in years past, I’ll stay away from things that taste like dirt, lucky or not.
Especially black-eyed peas.
But, please, pass the pomegranates. And have a happy new year, no matter your menu.
leslie.criss@journalinc.com