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Please Pass the Black-Eyed Peas

A husband strives to convince his wife that black-eyed peas on January 1st is a tradition worth preserving.

By Michael Thompson, Edmond, Oklahoma

As appeared in

Call me a typical guy but to me New Year’s Day means two things: football and food. As in watching college bowl games on TV—I save my loudest cheers for my Oklahoma Sooners, of course—and eating a big bowl of black-eyed peas. Both good old-fashioned American traditions, right?

Well, not for my wife, Stephanie. In the 10 years we’d been married I’d managed to change her mind about football. I didn’t quite convert her into an OU fan, but she did come around to understanding my love for the game and for the Sooners.

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Not bad for a woman who had less than no interest in football when we met.

But black-eyed peas? Forget it. Steph didn’t like beans of any kind.

“I won’t eat them, and I won’t cook them,” she declared. There was no swaying her.

Believe me, I tried. The first year we were married, I appealed to her sense of tradition. I told Steph that’s what my family ate every New Year’s when I was growing up in Poteau, Oklahoma.

My mom would lay out a spread of cornbread, fried potatoes and a steaming pot of black-eyed peas and we’d feast while we watched football. Dad liked to say that eating black-eyed peas on January first was supposed to bring good luck all year long.

“I don’t really buy into that,” I told Steph, “but it was fun just the same.”

“For you all, sure,” she said. “Not my kind of thing, though.”

I took another tack. “How about making some just because you love me?”

Steph laughed and shook her head. “Nice try.”

She did bring home a can of black-eyed peas from the grocery and present it to me on New Year’s, though.

I didn’t give up. Steph was into eating healthy. Her idea of a great meal was salad. Once we went to a steakhouse and she ordered a chopped salad. Not as a starter either. That was her whole dinner: a pile of lettuce and veggies with three little slices of sirloin on top.

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She claimed everything tasted better on a bed of greens. Yeah, right.

Still, I thought I might be able to use Steph’s fondness for healthy food to help my case come New Year’s. I looked up nutritional information on black-eyed peas and fed it—the info, not the peas—to her.

Black-eyed peas are low in fat and sodium, and cholesterol free. They’re a good source of calcium, folate and vitamin A. And a half-cup, cooked, has as much protein as three ounces of red meat.

“They’re good for you,” I said. “Like your salads.”

Steph wouldn’t bite.

I resorted to opening a lone can of black-eyed peas at halftime that New Year’s Day and every one thereafter. That sufficed for tradition.

Until last year. Who says Steph has to make black-eyed peas? I thought. Why can’t I make them myself? I got on my laptop and Googled how to cook them. Guess what popped up? A recipe for black-eyed pea salad!

I printed out that recipe and another one, a slow-cooker version of what my mom used to make. I threw the ingredients in the Crock-Pot before we went to bed.

New Year’s Day I woke to a heavenly aroma. I checked the Crock-Pot. Bubbling along nicely.

The Sooners game started. During commercials, I washed spinach and cut up veggies for the salad. Steph took pity on me and made the dressing.

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At halftime, we sat down together in front of the TV with our food on a tray. A big bowl of slow-cooked black-eyed peas for me. And a salad for her, topped with a scoop of those very same black-eyed peas.

I watched Steph take a bite. Then another. “You’ll eat anything if it’s on a bed of greens, won’t you?” I teased.

Steph just grinned and kept eating. She actually liked the black-eyed peas!

So much that she’s making them for us January first. The game, the food and the woman I love—this will be my best New Year’s ever. Especially when the Sooners win.

Try Michael's New Year's recipe for Black-Eyed Pea Salad.