WARNING: ALL OF YOU WHO ARE FAT AND ASHAMED OF IT; ALL OF YOU
WHO POLLUTE THE HIGHWAYS AND BYWAYS OF TEXAS WITH JOGGING SHOE
RUBBER AND HEADPHONE ATTACHMENTS WHILE RUNNING AWAY BODY TONNAGE;
ALL OF YOU WHO SPEND VALUABLE TIME, ENERGY AND RESOURCES TRYING
TO LOSE SOMETHING THAT YOU ARE FORTUNATE TO HAVE IN THE FIRST
PLACE (OTHER PEOPLES OF THE WORLD ARE STARVING TO DEATH INVOLUNTARILY--WE
STARVE OURSELVES VOLUNTARILY!) DO NOT READ THIS!!
This literary effort is intended to provide for those of us
who still know how to enjoy eating, are not ashamed of it, and
are not afraid that everything that is good to eat is carcinogenic,
a reminiscent culinary experience which will evoke Pavloval
behavioral patterns in your salivary glands! Translation: The
following is an attempt to conjure memories of the joy of good
eating and fuel the fires of future obesities to the degree
that Jane Fonda Exercise video and paraphernalia will be burned
in effigy and diet aids will be condemned worldwide!
This area is a melting pot of cultures. Because so many different
cultural backgrounds did contribute to the development of the
area we are blessed with the availability of many types of foods
such as Mexican, Chinese, Greek, German, Christian (Church's
Fried Chicken), etc. However, not only do we have different
cultural backgrounds contributing to what we eat but we also
have different regional backgrounds which influence our dietary
demands. Being originally from Tennessee I am especially aware
of the regional food differences. For instance, when someone
from the southeastern U.S. orders a barbecue sandwich he or
she expects it to be squealing delicious. Instead, in Texas,
it is a mooing delight, i.e., it is beef instead of pork.
Some people have unusual dislikes for certain types of "soul
food" too. I guess they have just never experienced the
pleasurable sensations and taste bud stimulation which can be
conjured by basic good eating. Squirrel for instance! In Texas
folks would rather eat a rat than a squirrel; in the Southeast
the first hunting experience enjoyed by a youngster is sneaking
through the woods stalking a wary little squirrel. The fun of
the hunt is only surpassed by the joy of the family gathering
as kinfolks come from miles around to enjoy some fresh squirrel
stew. If you haven't tried it, don't knock it! It can't be any
worse than menudo!
Now that you understand the general drift of the subject matter
which I am trying to relay, I want to introduce some of you
deprived folks to the ultimate in good eating - - black-eyed
peas. Of all the Southern foods nothing stimulates the taste
buds as does the thought of a big pot of black-eyed peas. Some
people may have tried them and not thought the taste was very
spectacular; that is because those people don't know how to
cook black-eyed peas. You don't just throw them in a pot, boil
until black and eat. Good grief! These are the same type folks
that would eat Poke Salad greens raw and complain at the funeral
because they didn't know an edible greens could be poisonous
in the raw state. Lord help us! I am glad my ole mama gave me
her black-eyed pea recipe! First of all, peas must be harvested
properly. The pods are usually harvested when the seeds are
about fully grown and the pods are beginning to fade in color,
but before either the seeds or the pods begin to dry out. Then
you shell the peas. Each pea is individually wrapped and hermetically
sealed to insure freshness. After shelling, peas should be cooked
over low heat until tender. The key to insure down-home goodness
of black-eyed peas is to add some salt pork to those cooking
peas. Herein may lie a problem; some grocers in this area don't
even know what salt pork is! They give you the same look when
you ask for salt pork that they give when you beg for country
ham. Obviously these folks have never had a piece of country
ham adorned with eggs cooked in the ham drippings and flanked
by home-made biscuits dripping with butter and honey. Run for
the hills, anorexia; you won't survive long in my mama's kitchen!
Of course I am not the first person who lusts after peas.
The Father of our country, George Washington himself, wrote
in a letter in 1791 that "pease" (meaning cowpeas)
were rarely grown in Virginia but in 1797 he brought 40 bushels
of seed for sowing on his plantation. Since the English pea
is not suited to the hot weather of the South, the edible varieties
of cowpeas have become more popular and southerners are accustomed
to applying the term "pea" to the cowpea instead of
the English pea. The cow pea is distinctly different from both
English peas or garden beans. Botanically, it appears more closely
related to the plants we usually call beans than to those we
call peas. Most of our edible varieties appear to have come
from Africa along with the slaves. Slave ships carried cowpeas
as part of their food supply.
The name "cowpea" is of American origin and was
first used in print in 1798. When this crop was first grown
in the United States, it was called "pease","callicance",
and later, "corn-field pease" because of the early
custom of planting it between the rows of field corn. It has
also been called "southern pea" and "southern
BLACK-EYED PEAS FOR NEW YEAR'S
Suppose you don't like black-eyed peas- As my old mama says
about cooking possums, those who don't like black-eyed peas
don't know how to cook black-eyed peas! I will grant that if
you throw some black-eyed peas in a pot and boil them unmercifully
for several hours, the resulting blackened capsules will be
painfully terrible to eat. On the other hand, if you intermingle
four thick slices of salt pork (or bacon for you city folks)
and simmer those beauties for several hours, you will create
a culinary delicacy. The great thing about cooking black-eyed
peas is that they get better the longer you keep them. That's
right -- the more times you reheat peas, the more flavorful
they will become.
Some folks don't like black-eyed peas. It takes all sorts
to make a world and I have never been one to criticize the mentally
impaired so I won't comment on those who don't like black-eyed
peas. Those are probably the same unfortunate types who don't
appreciate bar-b-qued possum and squirrel stew. But now everyone
will be intimidated into eating those little tan legumes with
the black "pupils" because recent studies indicate
that they are a good source of water-soluble fiber. This is
the same fiber that's in oat bran. NOW your colon health is
at stake; those peas are sounding better and better, aren't
This revelation that black-eyed peas are good colon masseuses
will encourage a lot of pea-cooking novices to try a batch.
DON'T MESS THEM UP! If you think the flag burning issue caused
a national ruckus, wait until a bunch of folks start ruining
tons of wonderful peas. It doesn't take brain surgeon mentality
to cook a good mess of peas. I have given you the basic formula:
a pot full of peas and some salt pork simmered until the peas
are tender. Too much salt pork equals salty peas; if the peas
are too salty, just pour the juice off, remove some of the pork
and re-simmer. If you want a Thomas Jefferson recipe: "After
soaking overnight, the black-eyed peas are simmered an hour
or so, then accented with chopped and sauted onion, green pepper,
celery and some cooked tomatoes. The meats (cooked country ham
and leftover duck, wild or domestic) including some pork sausage,
are mixed with the vegetables, and the casserole bubbles in
the oven under a layer of buttered baking powder biscuit crumb."
I'll guarantee old Tom never had even a colon quiver eating
down-home food like that!
You will notice that Jefferson's recipe mentioned country
ham. Some of you don't even understand what country ham is while
those who have experienced this heavenly taste experience and
was birthed with ham cooking on the stove are drooling profusely.
For the droolers, I have an address where you can order some
down-home good Tennessee country ham. I found this place Christmas
when I went home to see my old mama. Give my old mama a couple
of pieces of good country ham, let her cook some eggs in those
skillet drippings and co-mingle them with homemade biscuits
swimming in butter and wading honey, a you've got an eating
situation that will fill your belly wall-to-wall. Salt-cured,
hickory smoked ham is the diamond delight of eating and can
be compared to no other ham. They don't "make this kind"
of ham in Texas, i.e., this is the original, American country
ham -- they didn't have honey-cured hams in those days. Anyway,
the people who know what I'm talking about know what I mean;
the people who don't know or have never experienced country
ham can't be saved. (NOTE: For those (whimps) whose taste buds
might think that this salt-cured ham is too salty, you can make
this meat-from-heaven as bland as you want by soaking the salt
out in water for several hours. Don't overcook this ham either
-- there are legal ramifications for such an unholy act! Simmer
the meat on low heat.) My food "find" is Tripp Country
Hams, 207 South Washington Street, Brownsville, Tennessee 38012-3090
Back to black-eyed peas!
Here are some black-eyed pea recipes for you to try:
Three cups cooked black-eyed peas
One large green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch thin julienne strips
Two to three bunches green onions, chopped
One-third cup chopped fresh parsley
One-fourth cup mixed equal parts olive oil and safflower oil
One-fourth cup cider vinegar
One-half teaspoon dried oregano
One-half teaspoon dried basil
Dark-green lettuce leaves
Two hard-cooked eggs, chopped (optional)
In a serving bowl, combine all the ingredients except the
lettuce leaves and chopped eggs; toss well. Cover salad and
allow to marinate, refrigerate, several hours.
Arrange each serving atop a bed of lettuce leaves, garnished
with chopped egg. Serves six.
One can (15 oz.) black-eyed peas
Four slices thick bacon, diced
One large onion, chopped (1 and ½ cups)
One cup white rice
One-half teaspoon salt
One-fourth teaspoon black pepper or to taste
Hot red pepper sauce (optional)
Drain peas, reserving liquid. Add water to liquid to make
two and one-half cups. Set liquid and peas aside. Cook bacon
in medium saucepan until crisp. Remove with slotted spoon to
Discard all but one tablespoon of the drippings from the pan.
Cook onion in drippings until tender. Add the rice, cooking
and stirring two minutes longer.
Add reserved liquid, salt and pepper.
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover tightly and simmer 20 minutes.
Remove from heat. Stir in peas, bacon and, if desired, hot red
Let stand covered until all liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes.
Makes 6 servings.
BLACK-EYED PEA SOUP
One and one-half cups dry black-eyed peas
Two pound ham hocks or ham bone
Eight cups water
One cup chopped celery
One-half cup chopped onion
One-inch piece bay leaf
One-half teaspoon thyme
One tablespoon flour
One tablespoon bacon or ham drippings
Slices of lemon and hard-cooked egg
Combine black-eyed peas, ham hocks or bone and water in large
kettle. Add chopped celery, chopped onion and bay leaf. Crush
thyme and add to soup. Simmer until peas are done, about 1 hour.
Remove ham hocks and by leaf; press soup through sieve or puree
in food mill or in a blender. Return to kettle.
Blend flour and drippings and cook in small pan until browned.
Stir this roux into soup slowly; simmer until soup is thickened.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cut meat from bone into
one-half inch cubes and add to soup. Serve hot with slices of
lemon and hard-cooked egg. Serves eight.