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On Black Eyed Peas

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    Posted: 16 February 2010 at 08:35
Here's a great article I ran across several years ago and don't have a clue where I got it from.
 

 

 

BLACK-EYED PEAS

WARNING: ALL OF YOU WHO ARE FAT AND ASHAMED OF IT; ALL OF YOU WHO POLLUTE THE HIGHWAYS AND BYWAYS OF TEXAS WITH JOGGING SHOE RUBBER AND HEADPHONE ATTACHMENTS WHILE RUNNING AWAY BODY TONNAGE; ALL OF YOU WHO SPEND VALUABLE TIME, ENERGY AND RESOURCES TRYING TO LOSE SOMETHING THAT YOU ARE FORTUNATE TO HAVE IN THE FIRST PLACE (OTHER PEOPLES OF THE WORLD ARE STARVING TO DEATH INVOLUNTARILY--WE STARVE OURSELVES VOLUNTARILY!) DO NOT READ THIS!!

This literary effort is intended to provide for those of us who still know how to enjoy eating, are not ashamed of it, and are not afraid that everything that is good to eat is carcinogenic, a reminiscent culinary experience which will evoke Pavloval behavioral patterns in your salivary glands! Translation: The following is an attempt to conjure memories of the joy of good eating and fuel the fires of future obesities to the degree that Jane Fonda Exercise video and paraphernalia will be burned in effigy and diet aids will be condemned worldwide!

This area is a melting pot of cultures. Because so many different cultural backgrounds did contribute to the development of the area we are blessed with the availability of many types of foods such as Mexican, Chinese, Greek, German, Christian (Church's Fried Chicken), etc. However, not only do we have different cultural backgrounds contributing to what we eat but we also have different regional backgrounds which influence our dietary demands. Being originally from Tennessee I am especially aware of the regional food differences. For instance, when someone from the southeastern U.S. orders a barbecue sandwich he or she expects it to be squealing delicious. Instead, in Texas, it is a mooing delight, i.e., it is beef instead of pork.

Some people have unusual dislikes for certain types of "soul food" too. I guess they have just never experienced the pleasurable sensations and taste bud stimulation which can be conjured by basic good eating. Squirrel for instance! In Texas folks would rather eat a rat than a squirrel; in the Southeast the first hunting experience enjoyed by a youngster is sneaking through the woods stalking a wary little squirrel. The fun of the hunt is only surpassed by the joy of the family gathering as kinfolks come from miles around to enjoy some fresh squirrel stew. If you haven't tried it, don't knock it!

Now that you understand the general drift of the subject matter which I am trying to relay, I want to introduce some of you deprived folks to the ultimate in good eating - - black-eyed peas. Of all the Southern foods nothing stimulates the taste buds as does the thought of a big pot of black-eyed peas. Some people may have tried them and not thought the taste was very spectacular; that is because those people don't know how to cook black-eyed peas. You don't just throw them in a pot, boil until black and eat. Good grief! These are the same type folks that would eat Poke Salad greens raw and complain at the funeral because they didn't know an edible greens could be poisonous in the raw state. Lord help us! I am glad my ole mama gave me her black-eyed pea recipe! First of all, peas must be harvested properly. The pods are usually harvested when the seeds are about fully grown and the pods are beginning to fade in color, but before either the seeds or the pods begin to dry out. Then you shell the peas. Each pea is individually wrapped and hermetically sealed to insure freshness. After shelling, peas should be cooked over low heat until tender. The key to insure down-home goodness of black-eyed peas is to add some salt pork to those cooking peas. Herein may lie a problem; some grocers in this area don't even know what salt pork is! They give you the same look when you ask for salt pork that they give when you beg for country ham. Obviously these folks have never had a piece of country ham adorned with eggs cooked in the ham drippings and flanked by home-made biscuits dripping with butter and honey. Run for the hills, anorexia; you won't survive long in my mama's kitchen!

Of course I am not the first person who lusts after peas. The Father of our country, George Washington himself, wrote in a letter in 1791 that "pease" (meaning cowpeas) were rarely grown in Virginia but in 1797 he brought 40 bushels of seed for sowing on his plantation. Since the English pea is not suited to the hot weather of the South, the edible varieties of cowpeas have become more popular and southerners are accustomed to applying the term "pea" to the cowpea instead of the English pea. The cow pea is distinctly different from both English peas or garden beans. Botanically, it appears more closely related to the plants we usually call beans than to those we call peas. Most of our edible varieties appear to have come from Africa along with the slaves. Slave ships carried cowpeas as part of their food supply.

The name "cowpea" is of American origin and was first used in print in 1798. When this crop was first grown in the United States, it was called "pease","callicance", and later, "corn-field pease" because of the early custom of planting it between the rows of field corn. It has also been called "southern pea" and "southern field pea".
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BLACK-EYED PEAS FOR NEW YEAR'S

Suppose you don't like black-eyed peas- As my old mama says about cooking possums, those who don't like black-eyed peas don't know how to cook black-eyed peas! I will grant that if you throw some black-eyed peas in a pot and boil them unmercifully for several hours, the resulting blackened capsules will be painfully terrible to eat. On the other hand, if you intermingle four thick slices of salt pork (or bacon for you city folks) and simmer those beauties for several hours, you will create a culinary delicacy. The great thing about cooking black-eyed peas is that they get better the longer you keep them. That's right -- the more times you reheat peas, the more flavorful they will become.

Some folks don't like black-eyed peas. It takes all sorts to make a world and I have never been one to criticize the mentally impaired so I won't comment on those who don't like black-eyed peas. Those are probably the same unfortunate types who don't appreciate bar-b-qued possum and squirrel stew. But now everyone will be intimidated into eating those little tan legumes with the black "pupils" because recent studies indicate that they are a good source of water-soluble fiber. This is the same fiber that's in oat bran. NOW your colon health is at stake; those peas are sounding better and better, aren't they-

This revelation that black-eyed peas are good colon masseuses will encourage a lot of pea-cooking novices to try a batch. DON'T MESS THEM UP! If you think the flag burning issue caused a national ruckus, wait until a bunch of folks start ruining tons of wonderful peas. It doesn't take brain surgeon mentality to cook a good mess of peas. I have given you the basic formula: a pot full of peas and some salt pork simmered until the peas are tender. Too much salt pork equals salty peas; if the peas are too salty, just pour the juice off, remove some of the pork and re-simmer. If you want a Thomas Jefferson recipe: "After soaking overnight, the black-eyed peas are simmered an hour or so, then accented with chopped and sauted onion, green pepper, celery and some cooked tomatoes. The meats (cooked country ham and leftover duck, wild or domestic) including some pork sausage, are mixed with the vegetables, and the casserole bubbles in the oven under a layer of buttered baking powder biscuit crumb." I'll guarantee old Tom never had even a colon quiver eating down-home food like that!

You will notice that Jefferson's recipe mentioned country ham. Some of you don't even understand what country ham is while those who have experienced this heavenly taste experience and was birthed with ham cooking on the stove are drooling profusely. For the droolers, I have an address where you can order some down-home good Tennessee country ham. I found this place Christmas when I went home to see my old mama. Give my old mama a couple of pieces of good country ham, let her cook some eggs in those skillet drippings and co-mingle them with homemade biscuits swimming in butter and wading honey, a you've got an eating situation that will fill your belly wall-to-wall. Salt-cured, hickory smoked ham is the diamond delight of eating and can be compared to no other ham. They don't "make this kind" of ham in Texas, i.e., this is the original, American country ham -- they didn't have honey-cured hams in those days. Anyway, the people who know what I'm talking about know what I mean; the people who don't know or have never experienced country ham can't be saved. (NOTE: For those (whimps) whose taste buds might think that this salt-cured ham is too salty, you can make this meat-from-heaven as bland as you want by soaking the salt out in water for several hours. Don't overcook this ham either -- there are legal ramifications for such an unholy act! Simmer the meat on low heat.) My food "find" is Tripp Country Hams, 207 South Washington Street, Brownsville, Tennessee 38012-3090 (Telephone: 901-772-2130).

Back to black-eyed peas!

Here are some black-eyed pea recipes for you to try:
TEXAS CAVIAR
Three cups cooked black-eyed peas
One large green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch thin julienne strips
Two to three bunches green onions, chopped
One-third cup chopped fresh parsley
One-fourth cup mixed equal parts olive oil and safflower oil
One-fourth cup cider vinegar
One-half teaspoon dried oregano
One-half teaspoon dried basil
Dark-green lettuce leaves
Two hard-cooked eggs, chopped (optional)

In a serving bowl, combine all the ingredients except the lettuce leaves and chopped eggs; toss well. Cover salad and allow to marinate, refrigerate, several hours.
Arrange each serving atop a bed of lettuce leaves, garnished with chopped egg. Serves six.

HOPPIN' JOHN

One can (15 oz.) black-eyed peas
Four slices thick bacon, diced
One large onion, chopped (1 and ½ cups)
One cup white rice
One-half teaspoon salt
One-fourth teaspoon black pepper or to taste
Hot red pepper sauce (optional)

Drain peas, reserving liquid. Add water to liquid to make two and one-half cups. Set liquid and peas aside. Cook bacon in medium saucepan until crisp. Remove with slotted spoon to paper towels.
Discard all but one tablespoon of the drippings from the pan. Cook onion in drippings until tender. Add the rice, cooking and stirring two minutes longer.
Add reserved liquid, salt and pepper.
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover tightly and simmer 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in peas, bacon and, if desired, hot red pepper sauce.
Let stand covered until all liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Makes 6 servings.

 

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