Eat your black-eyed peas and collards

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The financial power of black-eyed peas and collard greens

Write this down. Mama was right. That’s right. I said it and I mean it. Mama was right.

For years, she badgered and battled me to eat black-eyed peas and collard greens on New Year’s Day.

“Ugh,” I’d say with a shiver, twisting my face into disgust. “Collard greens stink so they can’t taste good and black-eyed peas aren’t worth the calories. I’d rather have crowder peas.”

“Crowder peas won’t do you no good. You gotta eat black-eyed peas. If you don’t eat ‘em with collards, you won’t have any money next year.”

It’s a Southern superstition. Black-eyed peas represent coins while collards are the greenback money. According to what our people believe, the more you eat of both, the more money you’ll have in the upcoming year.

As it turns out, she was right. Though she faithfully cooked the combo – the collards seasoned with ham hocks – every New Year’s Day, I refused to eat them. And, apparently, as a result, I never had any money.

Even Daddy would say, as he dipped up the dripping collards from the pot, “Okay, kid, you ain’t gonna have no money next year.”

Several years ago, worn out from her hammering and tired of being broke, I caved and ate some of both. My financial fortunes significantly improved so I was the first one at her kitchen door the next year.

“I told ya!” Mama, who enjoys gloating, said. “If you’d listen to me earlier, you’d be in better shape now.”

I ate two helpings of each and had even more money the next year.

When I first wrote about the magical money-producing powers of peas and collards, Mama, using the column as reference, called folks to say, “You’d better come eat some black-eyed peas and collard greens with me. Ronda ate ‘em last year and look what happened.”

So many people showed up at Mama’s that New Year’s Day that I, the one who fueled the trend, couldn’t get a seat at the table. I didn’t care, though. As long as I got my share, I’d have sat out on the front porch in the cold and eaten them.

Last year, I took a cottage in St. Simon’s for the week following Christmas until after New Year’s. Friends invited me to attend a New Year’s brunch with them on Sea Island, one of the richest enclaves in the United States. When they assured me that black-eyed peas and collard greens were definitely on the menu, I agreed.

It wasn’t just an ordinary brunch. It was a gala with white tents, shining silver, sparkling crystal, fine linens and gorgeous china. There were tables laden with food and waiters serving champagne.

But by the time we got through the line, there was barely a spoonful of peas left and no collard greens at all. The caviar was barely touched, the ham and eggs still bountiful, the crepes plentiful. Those people, the ones who have made presidents and sat with royalty, chose black-eyed peas and collard greens over regal food.

It’s obvious. They aren’t just people who got lucky and made money. No. They’re smart people, captains of industry, who know to eat their collard greens and black-eyed peas every New Year’s Day. They’ve learned it produces an incredible return on investment.

I was more convinced than ever. I left the party, went straight to the grocery and bought big cans of black-eyed peas and seasoned collard greens. I went back to the cottage, cooked them and ate every bite.

I’m still a long way from the resources it takes to make a president or sit with royalty, but things are much improved than in the ol’ BC (Before Collards) days.

Mama was right. Remember that on New Year’s Day and eat your peas and collards.

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