Tradition has it that Southerners have been eating black-eyed peas for good luck on the first of the year since the end of the Civil War. They were the only things left for many Southerners to eat after the invading northern army, led by Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, tore through Georgia on his “march to the sea.”
Sherman believed that the actions of his army “hastened what we all fought for, the end of the war."
Sherman’s goal was to bring a quick end to the war. He also wanted to make Georgia “howl.” To do so, Sherman’s army not only took the city of Atlanta, but it cut a path of destruction some 300 miles long and some 60 miles wide through the South. As the army wreaked havoc, it consumed almost everything in which it came into contact. Almost everything except black-eyed peas.
Apparently Northerners thought these cowpeas, as they referred to them, were unfit for human consumption (gasp!). Thus, for Southerners caught in the wake of this destructive army, there was little else that winter of 1864-65 on which they could subsist.
Little did he know it also inaugurated a New Year’s tradition for southerners.
So considering my recently acquired affinity for black-eyed peas runs counter to the apparent long tradition of Yankee disdain for the bean, I’m quite proud of my turnaround in taste.