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Peas star as New Year's traditional food

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"Eat peas on New Year's Day and have good luck the rest of the year." So goes one of the Old Farmers' Almanac's favorite aphorisms. Peas, specifically black-eyed peas, have been eaten as a New Years Day supper in the south since the Civil War. Lore has it that the peas represent coins, collard greens bills and cornbread gold ingots, and eaten together, these foods promise a year of prosperity. The following recipe adds bacon and seasonings for a homespun meal with pizazz.

Black-eyed peas with bacon
1 lb. black-eyed peas, rinsed and sorted (sorting means to remove any peas that appear to be rotted or to have insect damage)
1/2 pound bacon, cooked, drained and crumbled
1 large onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
Extra cooked bacon for topping (optional)

Place peas, bacon and enough water to cover in a large saucepan or Dutch oven; bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and allow to stand for 1 hour. Do not drain.

In a skillet, heat olive oil. Add chopped onion and garlic. Saute until tender. Add dried thyme and continue to heat until herbs become very fragrant. Add to pea mixture.

Return peas to heat. Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes or until peas are soft. Top with additional bacon, if desired. Serves 6.

If black-eyed peas aren't available, then make a nice pot of split pea soup. This will help use up some of that leftover Christmas ham as well.

Split Pea Soup
1 small onion, diced
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
4 c. water
1 14 1/2 oz. can chicken broth
1 1/2 c. dry split peas, rinsed
1 c. fully cooked cubed ham
1/2 c. carrot coins
3 bay leaves
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary, crushed
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

In large saucepan, saute onion in oil until tender. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Cover and simmer until peas are tender, about 1 hour. Discard bay leaves before serving. Serves 6.

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