Black-Eyed Peas: A New Year’s Tradition

Eating black-eyed peas is a New Year’s tradition among some Mizrahi, Sephardi, and Israeli Jews.

Finding new recipes from around the world is a Tobin family holiday tradition. Diane Tobin directs an organization called Be’chol Lashon that celebrates global Jewish diversity. “This year’s recipe, Loubia or black-eyed peas, from Claudia Roden’s The Book of Jewish Food, is an Egyptian dish that symbolizes fertility and good luck for Rosh Hashanah,” explains Diane, adding that the “good luck” traditions of eating black-eyed peas for the new year are recorded in the Babylonian Talmud.

Originally native to Africa, the black-eyed pea was introduced into the West Indies and from there to the Southern United States. Diane adds: “Today, eating black-eyed peas is a New Year’s tradition among some Mizrahi, Sephardi, and Israeli Jews, as well as others throughout the Caribbean and the American South. We can learn much about the culture and tradition of diverse Jewish communities around the world through food.”

Diane says the recipe bridges both the racial and religious cultures of her youngest child, 11-year-old Jonah, an African American boy who was adopted as a baby through JFCS Adoption Connection program. Since 1985, Adoption Connection, a non-profit, licensed adoption agency—has helped place over 1,400 babies into loving families.

Ingredients

1 onion, chopped
3 tablespoons sunflower oil
2 garlic cloves, minced or crushed in a press
1.5 lb (750g) lamb or veal, cubed
1 lb (500g) tomatoes, peeled and chopped
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 lb (500g) dried black-eyed peas, soaked for 1 hour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
Salt and pepper
1-2 teaspoons sugar

Recipe

  1. Fry the onion in the oil till golden. Add the garlic, and when aroma rises add the meat. Stir to brown it all over.
  2. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste.
  3. Drain the black-eyed peas, and simmer on fresh water for 15 minutes, then drain and add them to the meat.
  4. Add cinnamon and allspice and cook for 2 hours, adding salt and pepper to taste and the sugar after about 1 hour.

Click here for more recipes on the Jewish Family & Children’s Services website.

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