As ubiquitous as champagne and confetti on New Year's Eve, black-eyed peas are a staple in African-American homes come January 1.
Like its soul-food kin, hoppin' John, as the peas are called when cooked with rice, is rooted in slave culture and has been eaten throughout the South for good luck on New Year's Day (alongside collard greens, which are said to bring money, and cornbread for good health).
According to Andrew F. Smith's "Oxford Companion To American Food And Drink," the dish rose to prominence in South Carolina's low country, where rice-growing slaves from West Africa prepared it in dishes based on those they made in their homeland. And though it started out as a tradition among slaves, its inclusion in an 1847 cookbook called "The Carolina Housewife" by Sarah Rutledge signaled its acceptance in upper-class kitchens as well.
The name, which is said to derive from the Hindi and Malagasy words "babatta kachang," meaning cooked rice and legumes, eventually became hoppin' John when people substituted similar sounds for words they could neither pronounce nor understand, according to the "Oxford Companion."
Black-eyed peas may also be sold under the name called cowpea and if the "eye" is yellow, yellow-eyed pea. They can be purchased fresh or dried.
Here, four chefs share their favorite recipes for this popular New Year's Day tradition.