PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

December 31, 2012

Lucky lentils, cabbage cash comprise New Year’s feast

Cody Edgerton
The Port Arthur News

— With cabbage and black-eyed peas flying off shelves and into pots across Southeast Texas, luck and money shouldn’t be too far behind. That is, if you’re a little superstitious.

Kitchens will be filled with the smell of cabbage, peas and maybe a little cornbread, the traditional New Year’s meal of the South.

Though many stick to the traditional fare, some such as Darnell Moser of Nederland will add a little something extra to go along with his luck-inducing lentils.

“We’re going to have black-eyed peas and ham, but we’re also going to do some fried shrimp,” Moser said as he perused the aisles at Market Basket 17 in Port Neches on Monday.

Lorreta Thompson of Port Neches was picking up her needed goods for a dinner with her son and niece and their spouses. For her it’s all about the “money.”

“I’m a cabbage person,” she said, “I like the cabbage rolls.”

Though there are conflicting historical claims as to who or where the tradition originated, the black-eyed pea legend is thought to have begun in the southern U.S. during the Civil War. During that time the Union troops would strip the occupied area of anything they could use to push further into Confederate territory. However, they would often times leave behind “field peas,” because they were considered only edible by animals. Leaving only field peas behind left southerners with no choice of food, but something to sustain themselves none-the-less.

Now the dish is said to bring luck to those consuming it on New Year’s Day.

And though some plan for a large family gathering, others such as Susan Arceneaux of Port Neches simply plans for a nice quiet beginning of 2013 with her husband, and of course some football, she said while gathering what she needed to create her meal.

Luckily for those looking for fresh green cabbage and peas there is Ronnie Nero, produce manager at Market Basket 17. He and his crew have been working diligently to make sure there is plenty of fixin’s for those prepping what will soon be plates of luck, money and health. And money seems to be in high demand now days.

“Normally we’ll sell some (cabbage and peas), but not like today,” Nero said. “We’ll sell about a ton and a half before it’s all over.”

So whether a plate is piled full of prospective profits, the hope for health or an idea that a helping of peas will have luck lying ahead, it’s all about the new year.

cedgerton@panews.com