OK, we admit it, we’re northerners at heart.
In a discussion of who is cooler – Nathan Bedford Forrest or Winfield Scott Hancock? – Hancock wins every time. Sure, they were both resourceful in a pinch. Forrest captured Fort Pillow almost singlehandedly. And Hancock pretty much saved the Union at Gettysburg. (You can look it up.) But after the war, Forrest was a founding member of the KKK, while Hancock was dubbed “the handsomest man in America” and almost became President, losing in 1880 by the closest popular vote margin in history. (Look it up.) Now that’s cool!
But we’re solidly Dixie in one respect: you gotta eat Black Eyed Peas on New Year’s Day. It’s a tradition that goes all way back to the Babylonian Talmud (circa 500 B.C., Google it), that decrees that eating Black Eyed Peas (botanical name: Vigna unguiculata sp.) on Rosh Hashanah brings prosperity in the coming year. Sephardic Jews who arrived in Georgia in the 1790’s brought the practice with them. It became a New Year’s practice throughout the South, and it continues to this day.
But northerners can get in on it, and here’s why: there was a guy named Charles Ferguson Smith who taught at West Point in the 1850’s. He became a key northern general in the Civil War, second in command to his former pupil Ulysses S. Grant, and together they captured Fort Donelson (it’s in Wikipedia). He told his men, “damn you gentlemen, I see skulkers, I’ll have none of that here…this is your chance, you volunteered to be killed for your country, and now you can be.” Now that’s cool, but it’s slightly less cool than the fact that one of his descendants (all Scots being related) is named Stacy Anne Ferguson. But she’s better known as Fergie, and she’s the lead singer of a group NAMED the Black Eyed Peas. So through that connection, we northerners can lay claim to owning this excellent tradition.
So, whether you consider yourself a Yank or a Reb, Jewish or Gentile, your fate in 2011 will be determined by your grocery list, and your saucepan. Get to the store, get some Black Eyed Peas, and cook ’em up.
And as any good ole boy would say: L’Chaim!