“You like black-eyed peas, right?”
When it has been a while since I’ve cooked something, I am sure to ask my husband his preference.
A Little Background
My husband’s tastes – and dietary restrictions – have changed throughout our almost 26 years of marriage. Our first date was actually a casual agreement between two coworkers to hunt for a good, reasonably priced rice cooker.
During a religion department meeting early in September, we were chatting and happened upon the realization that we were both vegetarians. He mentioned his penchant for beans and rice. I’d recently spent 7 years living in Taiwan and Hong Kong – and spoke Mandarin and Cantonese fluently at the time. So after I mentioned that rice is so much easier with a rice cooker, we agreed that I could help him navigate the small Chinatown shops where he thought I may be able to barter a better price.
Over the years, for various reasons, our sons and my husband began eating meat. More recently, my husband leaned heavily into a keto-type diet, and most recently he was diagnosed with Celiac disease. Because of our different health needs, and his dietary restrictions, we often cook our own meals – and even when we cook for one another we don’t always eat the same dishes.
So I ask if he enjoys the food and if he wants me to make a version he can eat.
My Venture with Black-eyed Peas
Last week when I was pondering a walk to the grocery store before preparing for something warm and nutritious to throw in the crockpot – I thought of black-eyed peas.
What I didn’t know before I began my black-eyed pea venture is that black-eyed peas, for many, are considered a traditional good luck dish to be served on New Year’s Day. So although my black-eyed peas were prepared and enjoyed on December 29, we did have some leftovers to enjoy on New Year’s Day. I hope this doesn’t lessen the luck that comes with them!
“You like black-eyed peas, right?” I asked.
With a grimace, he replied, “I love black-eyed peas, but you’ve got to do them just right or they’re horrible.”
Although my original post-high school degree was in Food Science & Nutrition with an emphasis on culinary arts, I ran institutional kitchens for 8 years, I’ve catered and for years I’ve taught a wide variety of cooking courses – I know that some things just don’t turn out as planned. Particularly because when cooking (not baking) I rarely follow a recipe or measure.
So, off I set to tackle black-eyed peas – just right.
A Google search reminded me of a few ingredients to be sure to have on hand.
I found the recipe that served as my backdrop at The Magical Slow Cooker: https://www.themagicalslowcooker.com/new-years-day-black-eyed-peas/
Being true to me, and deciding to make a meat and vegetarian version, I changed things up a bit.
I boiled water and soaked one pound of peas for an hour before draining and cooking on the stovetop. The other I simply tossed in the crockpot without pre-soaking.
For the meat-eater’s version, Christmas turkey and broth replaced the chicken broth, ham, and bacon.
For the vegetarian version, I began with a store-bought version of vegetable broth and a douse of ginger water (which we boil and keep on hand in the fridge).
To both recipes I added:
- Hickory seasoning powder to replace the smokiness of the ham and bacon
- Frozen chopped spinach – thawed, squeezed of excess liquid
- Mushrooms, sliced
- Celery, chopped
- Onions, chopped
- De-seeded tomatoes – pulsed in the food processor [My husband is allergic to tomato seeds]
- Black garlic, replaced traditional garlic
- Black pepper
- Himalayan pink salt
- *Old Bay Seasoning – a combination of celery salt, salt, red pepper, black pepper and paprika
- *Lake Shore Seasoning which is a regional version of spices made up of onions, garlic, shallots, chives
*Note that any seasoning with salt should be added near the end as salt can actually slow and even halt the softening process of black-eyed peas and all varieties of beans.
The stovetop version was ready hours before the meat version so I enjoyed a hearty bowl of delicious black-eyed peas before my husband returned home. But I had no idea how the crockpot meat version would turn out.
The house smelled incredible all day – and I waited with bated breath as my husband dished up a bowl of the meat version.
With his first bite, he shook his head in delight and said, “These taste like a little ole’ Black lady made ‘em.”
High praise from my African American husband who was raised on the cooking of a little ole’ Black lady.
I dare to say black-eyed peas may become a New Year’s Day tradition in this house. (And perhaps then, I’ll remember to take photos of my process and results).