the peoples peas
by shivon love
Black-eyed peas. Enjoyed across cultures —from Pakistani lobia keema to Nigerian ewa dodo, to Ethiopian berbere stew to Ghanaian redred to the American South’s Hoppin’ Jean — they are tradition, comfort and home.
Domestically, they have been prepared and consumed at the dawn of the new year. They are considered symbols of luck, blessings, survival, and hope for the year to come.
I didn’t grow up eating black-eyed peas. I cringed at the thought of those little suckers — staring up at me, waiting to be eaten. Ha, well y’all better keep waiting.
Then one day, many years later, much like their shriveled and shed skins in soaking water, they reemerged and somehow became a beloved addition to my pantry.
Perhaps trying to make up for what I may have missed, all those years eschewing the bean with the curious appearance, I began unconsciously trying to perfect the pea. Acaraje or black-eyed pea fritter, black-eyed pea salad, or Texas caviar as some call it, Hoppin’ Jean, and most recently, this dish whose name, well, is simply what they are. A dish that holds the traditions and stories of many people.
I now feel comforted and nourished when I eat black-eyed peas, especially in this dish, inspired by the hands, hearts and hopes of brown people across continents.
I pray that it will become a tradition for my family here, in Philadelphia, or wherever we may be. A dish that celebrates our blessings, our survival, and our hope for the future.
4 15 oz cans of black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
4 tb butter
1 large onion
1 ½ tb fresh ginger, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 hot pepper of choice, seeded and minced
spices: 1 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp fenugreek, ¼ tsp allspice, ½ tsp cardamom, ½ tsp clove, 3 tb smoked paprika, ½ tsp ground nutmeg, ½ tsp cinnamon, freshly ground sea salt and pepper, to taste
3 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 c coconut milk
1 c vegetable broth
optional: fresh parsley, cilantro, or scallions added before serving
Measure out all spices. Put them together in a bowl.
Let them get to know one another.
In large pot or saucepan, melt butter. Add onion, ginger, garlic, and hot pepper, stirring until they visibly begin to soften and brown.
Add spices, stirring until you like what you smell.
Then invite tomatoes, stirring and cooking until they begin to break down slightly.
Stir in coconut milk and broth, bringing to a boil. Simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally until sauce has thickened, about 20 minutes.
Add black-eyed peas. Continue to cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Taste. Add more spice, if desired. Fold in parsley, cilantro, and scallions before serving.
Give thanks and break bread.
grits + greens
by khaliah d. pitts
Turmeric Grits over Wilted Greens
Rough chop (or chiffonade, if you fancy) greens of your choice (I’ll be using collards in the spirit of the new year, for blessings, good tidings + good luck). Cover the bottom of a bowl with your greens.
Prepare your grits, however you like to do so, but for the best effect, make sure they’re kinda soupy; you want to pour them over your greens. Dress your grits with butter (of your choice), pink salt (a must), + black pepper. Sprinkle in the turmeric while stirring. You want to shake enough in there to get a golden color.
Now, pour these hot, soupy grits over your greens. The heat will wilt them.
Add whatever toppings you’re into: shrimp + onions, fried plantains, an over-easy egg, avocado, mushrooms + peppers, however you get down.
Now for New Year’s… I suggest a topping of black-eyed peas.
We had grits many a Sunday morning growing up. Still, when we all find the occasion to get together + share that first meal, grits are often on the menu. Cheese grits specifically. I could never develop a real appreciation for cheese grits, I’m not a huge fan of cheese as it is, so usually I’d get served a bowl of hot + steamy sweet grits: just grits with sugar added. Once my family stopped making it a habit to eat together every Sunday morning, I left grits firmly in the past. It wasn’t until I was a bit grown, living on my own, that I was able to really love grits. I was fasting for Ramadan one year (in solidarity with my Muslim folks) + I decided that grits would be a perfect pre-sunrise meal, filling enough to carry me through the day, but not too heavy to enjoy at 4:00 a.m. I made my grits with no cheese, butter, salt, and pepper + paired it with a fried egg + a small breakfast salad, probably arugula, tomatoes, and blueberries. It was hittin’. I enjoyed it immensely many mornings during the fast. It brought back those feelings of early mornings, Sundays, + my Dad whippin’ around the kitchen in his 5th Generation Tillery apron (my mother’s family). I let it become my comfort food again. In recent years, seeking a natural way to fight the seasonal blues, turmeric was suggested to be added heavily to my diet. I threw it in my grits, my bowl of warm memories, enjoying the sunny yellow color. I poured the grits over a bed of torn up kale, ‘cause I have to get my raw veggies in somehow. Sometimes, I’d put the grits over my breakfast potatoes and enjoy the hot grains dancing alongside mushrooms + onions + peppers, everything warm + still crunchy + so, so yummy.
how many cups of water can you carry?
in your dust-worn palms
how many seeds can you hide?
under the warm throws of your tongue
how many moons can you tuck?
behind your grandad’s ears
how many laughs you got?
folded into the corner of your apron
add that, all that.
to that pot, nah, nah
and garlic and thyme
and maybe you can pray, if you try
and you can stir it with the wooden spoon
and a sprig of basil too
peer into the cast iron eyes
and let the steam kiss you.
these pieces were originally published in From Our Kitchens: Recipes from the Philadelphia Assembled Kitchen in conjunction with the 2017 Philadelphia Assembled Exhibit.