The tradition of eating black-eyed peas (for good luck) and cabbage (for money) on the first day of the new year is such a Southern tradition that most of us don’t look for the reason behind it.
I figured out that green cabbage represents cash, but didn’t know why black-eyed peas represented luck.
Jill Lowry (“a Limey now living in Baton Rouge”) came across a story giving a reason for consuming peas, stemming back to the Civil War.
(I don’t recall this being discussed during T. Harry Williams’ Civil War class at LSU, but it’s still a good story.)
During Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman’s “March to the Sea,” his troops practiced a scorched-earth policy designed to starve the rebels.
At the end of 1864 Southerners in the path of the march found their crops destroyed — except for black-eyed peas, which in the North were used as livestock feed. Since all the livestock had been killed or taken, the peas were regarded as worthless.
As the story goes, Southerners survived those early days of the new year on peas — and considered themselves lucky to have them.
“A Concerned Hunter’s Wife” answers the reader who told of restrictions on hiking in the Tunica Hills:
“My husband is a hunter in the Tunica Wildlife Management Area. Hunting season is Oct. 1 to Jan. 31.
“He has on many occasions, while hunting, had hikers strolling through the woods.
“They come in there not dressed properly — shorts and tank tops, sandals, you get the picture.
“These woods are not really pleasing for hiking. During December, a group of nine or so young folks that had hiked there got lost.
“Anytime he sees cars going down the road he’ll stop them and ask if they need help.
“There is a huge misconception about Tunica hiking. The one they need to visit is in Pond, Miss. It’s Clark Creek Nature Area. It’s also the Tunica Hills. But come dressed for hiking; there’s nothing leisurely about those hills.”
After we talked about the sounds of Old Baton Rouge, I heard from Margie Batts Jordan, of Denham Springs:
“At the age of 89 (almost 90), there are a few sounds I, too, have missed hearing.
“Born and raised in Brusly, I can remember hearing the Cinclare Plantation’s distinct whistle blow at noon for the men to stop for lunch.
At school, we kids also would stop! Teachers couldn’t do a thing with us after that whistle blew.”
Chips of the past
A reader commented on Robby Zeringue’s recollection of the aroma from the Cherry’s Potato Chips plant on Choctaw Drive:
“I am old enough to remember eating Cherry’s Chips. I have always stated that they were the best chips I have ever eaten.
“Do any of your readers have any knowledge as to why they quit making them?”
Looking for stuff
Lily Keber, director/producer of “Bayou Maharajah,” a documentary film on New Orleans pianist James Booker, is looking for 1970s-era footage of New Orleans.
She says, “The hardest part is that I really need footage NOT of the French Quarter. Home movies, driving shots, shots of ordinary people doing everyday things.”
Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (504) 579-4839.
You can see a trailer for the film at BayouMaharajah.com
Annabelle Armstrong thanks Shane Marchand and Anthony Politz, who “went out of their way to assist me when I had a flat tire recently.
“I had my 93-year-old neighbor with me, and had pulled off Perkins Road into a parking lot at Essen Lane.
“Before I could call for help on my cellphone the two men drove into the lot and asked if they could help.
“The jack was broken, so Shane got his from his van (Day2Day Maintenance Co.). They went to work and soon had the temporary spare on.
“They seemed happy to help, and we were happy they did.”
For the defense
After Hots Aull told how Ellis “Little Fuzz” Brown, principal at Istrouma High in the ’50s, would always contact Earl Phillips and Don Hooks when anything was missing, I heard from Don.
He protested the “scandalous and scurrilous attack on two of the more outstanding citizens of our time at Istrouma.”
He also expressed concern that “in some cases the statute of limitations has not expired.” (Without admitting guilt, of course.)
Doug Johnson says he was shopping in a local dollar store when he overheard a conversation between a woman and a young girl:
“The woman said to the girl, ‘You are very mature for a 9-year-old.’
“The girl replied, ‘I’m 13.’
“Reminded me of the time I congratulated a lady on her upcoming blessed event, only to learn she wasn’t expecting one.”
Write Smiley at Smiley@theadvocate.com. He can also be reached by fax at (225) 388-0351 or mail at P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821.
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