I celebrate New Year on January first of the Gregorian calendar as well as the lunar (Islamic) new year. Each one brings different practices and celebrations.
Earlier, as I was cooking my black-eyed peas, an African American New Year’s tradition, I was reminded of the time I was traveling across the African continent and had a stop-over in Lagos, Nigeria. I implored one of my fellow travelers who I recognized from the conference I had just attended to help me find a place to stay since I would be in town for a day and not flying until late evening. She very graciously took me home to her family home.
Because her family was celebrating her visit they made a special dish made out of black-eyed peas. The skins are removed and the beans are made into a spicy paste-like meal that was hot and delicious! The hostess told me how they manually remove the skins and I was amazed.
After a short stay, I left Lagos with sand of the local beach in my shoes and memories of a graciously hosted visit.
I don’t know the name of the black-eyed pea dish that I had in Lagos, but I have since had it back here in the States. When I was telling the cook how I had enjoyed this dish in situ in her country she shrugged and said ” we use a food processor here.”
My mothers always prepared black-eyed peas for New Year with the traditional saying that they bring good luck in the new year. I have brought my recipe into the twenty first century where I avoid animal products and processed salts. I stick with simple savory spices and often have the interesting looking peas over lettuce in a salad.
Aside from that health oriented innovation, I am as my mothers were: committed, hard-working, and generous of heart and spirit. I certainly have had more expansive opportunities them them: world travel, advanced education, and interfaces with many diverse cultures. I remain, though, much the same as them. I look like them, I cook like them and I will never close the space in my front teeth as my African foremothers never would.
And as for luck, I am truly blessed; still living and hoping for all of the good things in life. I wish that as well for those I know and love and for those random souls who read my words and hear my voice: “Happy New Year” and have some black-eyed peas.