Monday, May 4, 2009

Soul Food

My urban backyard doesn't have much space for gardening, but we've decided to give it a try in a few sunny spots. So I built a wooden frame and dug some dirt out of the nearby woods to fill it, and last week pushed a few seeds into the ground. Over the weekend, they started pushing back, their tender little necks and leaves lifting up to light.

Around here it's important to have a serving of hot blackeyed peas on New Year's Day for good luck in the coming year. Next year I hope to serve some homegrown ones. Until today I had no idea that this tradition is recorded in the Babylonian Talmud, and that there's some evidence that it has its roots in Jewish practice.

The plant is native to Africa, but it's grown and nourishes people all over the world.

One of the best references to it in popular culture comes from Bobbie Gentry's 1967 hit "Ode to Billy Joe": "Papa said to Mama as he passed around the black-eyed peas, 'Well, Billy Joe never had a lick of sense; pass the biscuits please.'"

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