My late Daddy B was raised in the (Old) Deep South and his respect for tradition was legendary. As related to holiday cuisine, he had two hard and fast rules which I honor to this day.
One, we were never allowed to enjoy watermelon prior to “Juneteenth” (June 19th) aka Emancipation Day, the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. It was rumoredthat indulging in the juicy red treat prior to that date could well result in a very upset tummy. None of us kids ever had the nerve to test the theory!
The other, we ALWAYS had black-eyed peas first thing on New Year’s Day, as a surefire guarantee of luck and prosperity in the coming new year. The practice of this Southern ritual is generally believed to date back to the Civil War era. BEP’s were first planted as common livestock fodder, later as a staple crop by plantation owners to feed their slaves. The attribution of “good luck” came about after Union troops, led by one William Tecumseh Sherman, torched the homes, barns and fields of Confederate sympathizers during his infamous March to the Sea from Atlanta to Savannah in 1864. It seems that “field peas,” as they were called, were not considered of any significant value, hence they were spared and ultimately sustained the hungry Southerners left in the wake of a devastating campaign.
George Washington Carver, the 19th century botanist, educator and inventor, promoted planting of this legume as a way to amend the soil with nitrogen and still produce a nourishing crop. BEP’s are low in fat, have no cholesterol but are high in potassium, calcium, iron, Vitamin A and dietary fiber. And cooked in the traditional way, with a little ham hock for seasoning and served with a dash of hot sauce or vinegar...why you’re consuming no more than 200 calories per serving!
Unless...you find yourself competing (and sampling) in the annual Black-Eyed Pea Cookoff and Pea Pickin’ Eating Contest at Hye’s own William Chris Vineyards! Then, my friends and neighbors, you can throw ALL those calorie counts out the window! There was every
variation of “enhancements” you can imagine. Most of the cooks were repeat offenders from previous years, and they flat out kicked the rookies to the curb...I know, I was one. The team staged next to me showed up with peas soaked in WCV’s legendary “Emotion” vintage, delicious cornbread on the side and a peach chutney “chaser” that was to die for. I partnered up with old friend, Tess Green and tried to play the Hye “local boy” hand, combining Texas-grown peas, venison backstrap from my ranch, basted in WCV Hunter, Aggie onions, local chilies and tomatoes all cooked with Weinheimer’s bacon to add flavor. With a dash of Shiner Bock and lime juice at the end. Got lots of compliments, but not enough votes to even place. Hyelanders Karen O’Neill and Jason Cook teamed up for a second place trophy with their colorful and tasty Black Iron Skillet Peas featuring chorizo and a variety of yet-to-be determined spices. We losers called for an autopsy of the leftovers and an audit of the results (judges voted by placing peas in your jelly jar) but to no avail. A grand time was had by all, and a portion of the proceeds went to fund our non-profit Hye Preservation Society. Thanks to all the folks at WCV for hosting this event in their fabulous new tasting room, with music provided by Jim T. We all consumed sufficient quantities of BEP’s to ensure a very “lucky and prosperous” 2013. You can keep up with the goings-on at the winery by dialing in www.william chriswines.com or perusing their FaceBook page.
Speaking of the HPS, President Chris Brundrett tells me the Board is still seeking public input for fresh direction in the new year, now that things have quieted down at our historical Post Office (at least until 2014). “We’re planning to meet soon, and welcome everyone to attend, share their concerns and ideas for the betterment of Greater Hye.” “This is where we live and work, he continued, and it’s important that we not only preserve our history, but also look to the future and plan for the inevitable growth of this popular area.”
And speaking of the PO...Interim Postmaster, Bobby Burg tells me that our beloved Dorothy is recovering well from pre-holiday hip surgery and “should be coming back to us anytime now.” Bobby got us through the Christmas and New Year’s crush just fine and we thank him for stepping up in Dorothy’s absence.
Condolences to Hye Pipe and Feed sales manage, Kristin Leach who lost her Dad last week. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.
The regular deer season closed on Sunday, now we’re all trying to harvest sufficient doe to get the ratio right for the coming year. I’m hopeful that my neighboring land owners are mindful of the need for cooperation as we strive to improve the quality of our whitetail herd. I learned so much from my summer intern, Mason Moreland, about the importance of managing game and will write about that in a future column—perhaps connected to the JCFFA Wildlife Team under the capable direction of Steven Meier as they pursue a State title this spring.
Finally, please stop by Hye Pipe and Feed to lend your support to the Buyer’s Group, now preparing for the upcoming Blanco County Livestock Show and Shop Project Exhibition. Linnette tells me “we’re a bit behind schedule, but confident our Hyelanders will rally to the cause!” We do need to support these kids from the FFA and 4-H clubs who gain so much from the experience. It’s almost Show Time!
Riding forward, LL