In a pickle: Solution to the old-as-sin, black-eyed pea dilemma

dlauderdale@islandpacket.comJanuary 3, 2013 

Black-eyed peas may drive us all to the poor house yet.

A dear reader took time on New Year's evening to send the following note:

"This is not a letter to the editor but a note to the person responsible for the Black-eyed Pea Falafel recipe. Did this person actually make the recipe????????? It was AWFUL in every way. What a shame I wasted all those ingredients. You need to do better -- and HEALTHIER -- recipes too!!!!"

I feel her pain. I did not try the Falafel recipe, but I have tinkered with black-eyed peas long enough to know that we need to look elsewhere for rich cuisine.

The Hoppin' John of New Year's Day infamy is nothing more than a Hoppin' Joke. We think it will bring good fortune so we continue to eat it, even though Elmer's Glue has more flavor.

I cook black-eyed peas into oblivion with a large, smoked pig part. It doesn't matter what part, as long as it's smoked and once belonged to a pig.

Adults have been lying and cheating to get children to eat black-eyed peas since the dawn of time.

As a child, a neighbor told me that if I ate my black-eyed peas it would put hair on my arms. I scarfed them down, looking at my arms between every bite. Over time, it worked. Now I am looking for a horrid vegetable that will put hair on my head.

In my mother's generation, little girls were warned in hushed tones: "If you don't eat your vegetables, you'll grow up to look like Eleanor Roosevelt."

But there is an answer to the black-eyed pea problem. In the kitchen, there is always an answer.

Ellie Bollin, my friend for almost 40 years, catered more lavish parties on Hilton Head Island than the law should allow. Ellie told me the best cook of them all is Helen Corbitt. And when Corbitt moved from New York to Texas to wow diners at the Houston Country Club and Neiman-Marcus and other elegant places, she ran into the old-as-sin, black-eyed peas on New Year's Day problem.

"I didn't like the peas either," she wrote. "So-o-o, I pickled them."

I don't want you to waste any ingredients. But all you have to add to two 15-ounce cans of drained black-eyed peas are a cup of salad oil, a quarter-cup of wine vinegar, a whole garlic clove, a quarter-cup of thinly sliced onions, a half-teaspoon of salt, and ground pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly and store in a jar in the refrigerator. Remove the garlic bud after one day. Store at least two days and up to two weeks before eating.

It may not put hair on your arms, or bring prosperity in the coming year. But it will bring a smile to your face. And keep you from having to fire off letters to the newspaper.

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