The following post was written by my mom, WWW, who has been staying with us since the babies were born four weeks ago. Because of my mom, I've been able to sleep six-hours (uninterrupted!) every
night morning which has made all the difference in my sanity and ability to function. She takes the kids to school in the a.m, cooks for all of us at night and double-fists babies with me all afternoon. I'm incredibly lucky to have her here and would like her to not go... ever. She's just that wonderful...
I wrote the following post the day before Rebecca went into labor, days after the widespread power outage experienced by much of Southern California and Arizona. While I was rushing around at 2 in the morning gathering my belongings for my extended stay in LA (Larry was unfortunately out of town at the time), I luckily remembered the pot of black eyed peas I had made earlier in the day and put it in my car.
Historically, black-eyed peas were eaten by Sephardic Jews at Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, to bring good luck in the new year. Later during the Civil War, Southerners adopted this practice, too. It now seems meant to be that I had chosen to make this dish the day before our adorable Bo and Rev came into the world. These delicious “good luck” beans fed Hal and me for several days, and I also was able to bring bowls of them to Rebecca in the hospital so she could eat something yummy instead of the awful food they gave her. And as an added bonus, my favorite blue pot is here with me, helping me to bring yummy meals into this warm and loving home for as long as I stay.
Last Thursday at 3:40, while I was teaching songs in drama class, the lights went out. “I’m sure they’ll come on soon,” I told the kids and continued teaching in the dark, without aid of my sound system. It wasn’t until I was on my way home and heard how widespread the outage was from Rebecca that I realized this could actually be serious. I hung up with Rebecca and called Larry but couldn’t get through and on top of that, my cell phone was about to die.
I have discovered something about myself over the years. I tend to be a worrier and panic before anything happens, my imagination thinking up things that might happen, worries about my kids, mostly. But when it comes to a real emergency, I am calm. Ridiculously calm—like the eye-of-a-storm calm. When our house almost burned down in a brush fire fifteen years ago, I didn’t even flinch. When Larry and I were in an airplane on our way to Hawaii and the engine was loose, I was completely at peace. And even though the thought crossed my mind for a second that the massive power outage could be an act of terrorism, especially because of the close proximity to 9/11, for some reason, I was completely calm.
Ever since I have been driving a car with keyless ignition, I have stopped carrying around my keys, instead using my garage door opener to get into my house, so I realized when I got home that I was locked out and didn’t know what I would do until Larry got home. No book, no place to go. “I could swim in the pool in my underwear,” I thought to myself. And although that really sounded like fun to me, I suddenly remembered that my neighbor had a key.
Now you might be wondering what this story has to do with food. When I finally was able to get into my house, there on the kitchen table, unopened, was my CSA box. I had picked it up right before work and set it there before rushing out the door. I opened it and amongst the random assortment of fruits and vegetables was a rubber band bound bunch of shriveled bean pods that looked like something ready to be composted. Curious, I opened one up and lo and behold discovered I had been given a bunch of fresh black-eyed peas.
When Larry finally got home after hours of navigating stop-light free intersections, I had finished with the peas (all that work only yielded a custard cup full.)
...We collected candles and flashlights. I suggested veggie burgers for dinner since we had some frozen but I didn’t want to open the refrigerator so we skipped the condiments. I had an onion, ripe tomatoes and an avocado in the CSA box and we ate our burger with those on top. I had shelled the fresh peas so I cooked them on our gas stove and served them with olive oil, salt and pepper, and some chopped cilantro, also in the box. The nice thing about being vegetarians is that we really didn’t have anything in the refrigerator that would spoil—except maybe the ice cream in the freezer which we ate for dessert.
After dinner, we gathered in the cul-de-sac with the neighbors and talked and caught up on everyone’s news. No one was upset. Two families had gone to get their aging mothers, one who has Alzheimer’s. She kept asking “when are the lights going back on” and her daughter patiently would reply, “probably tomorrow.” Soon the sun went down and the stars appeared. I was disappointed that the moon was so bright and told myself to get up in the middle of the night, after the moon set, so that I could see the Milky Way. The thought of that thrilled me. It has been probably 45 years since I have seen it in San Diego. But even with the bright moon, we saw Scorpius and the Teapot, the Big Dipper and Cassiopeia.
“And see that red star in Scorpio?” I pointed. “That’s Antares, a red giant!”
We all marveled at our world, unplugged, together.
At about 9 pm, we all went back inside our homes. I heard laughter from the neighbors behind me and recognized the voices of other neighbors who must have gathered in their back yard. Larry and I sat in our candle-lit home with flashlights on our shoulders, reading in the dark until 9:30 when we decided we might as well go to bed. Just about 10:00 when we were ready to nod off, we heard the neighbors yell “The lights are on!” And although I was happy with the news, a part of me was wishing we would have more nights like this, that maybe we should all voluntarily turn off our lights once a month, once a week. Unplug. Have a Sabbath. See the stars. Make do with less.
Black-eyed peas, or cowpeas, are one of the most nutritious legumes you can eat. Snubbed for centuries as a “lowly crop” by rich people (who, by the way, were dying of all sorts of nutrition based diseases), the peas were fed to cows and poor people who thrived on their high nutrition. A whopping 24% of a black-eyed pea is protein which means that a main dish of black-eyed peas provides half of your daily protein needs. They also have tons of fiber and a huge amount of iron. Basically, black-eyed peas are a vegetarian’s delight.
Black-eyed peas originally come from the north of Africa where they flourish with little water and can be grown in sun or shade. (You can even eat the leaves which contain more protein than any other vegetable). In the south, they are a staple (mostly cooked with bacon). And they are popular at New Years when they are simply salted and passed around for good luck.
You can get black-eyed peas in cans (not my personal favorite as they become mushy), frozen, dried, and fresh (as I found out on Thursday) at farmer’s markets, specialty stores or farm stands.
If you buy them fresh, you need to cook them until they are tender. How long this takes depends on how fresh they are, so just test them after about 15 minutes or so.
If you buy them frozen, cook them just till they thaw. You can then flavor them however you want. I like to put salt and pepper on them, some chopped cilantro, cumin and some olive oil. You can also sprinkle a little lemon or cayenne on them.
The dried ones are super cheap and easy to cook. Just soak them overnight, rinse the next day, and cover with water and salt (if you like, add a teaspoon of turmeric or cumin). Bring to a boil and cook until soft. You can add them to soups or drain them and use them in salads or in any recipe calling for beans. Try them with a mustard vinaigrette, corn, red bell peppers, onion, and chopped cabbage. I added the peas to a quinoa and roasted vegetable dinner I had made the night before and they were so delicious.
In India, black-eyed peas are a staple and are prepared like dal or used for curry or other dishes. I cooked them the same way I cooked red lentils and they were amazing. Here is the recipe, also from Six Spices by Neeta Saluja.
Black-Eyed Peas (From Six Spices by Neeta Saluja)
1 cup black-eyed peas
4 cups water
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 T ghee
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 green chili, cut lengthwise and seeds removed
1 small onion
½ teaspoon red chili powder
1 medium tomato, chopped
2 to 3 T fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons sugar
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
1. Wash and soak the peas overnight. Drain water and transfer peas to medium-size saucepan. Add the water, turmeric powder, and salt.
2. Bring to a boil on a high heat, reduce and cover the pan. Let simmer until peas are soft and turn into a soup-like consistency.
3. In a small frying pan, heat ghee on medium heat. When hot, stir in cumin seeds. Add green chilies and onions and cook until onions are soft.
6. Add lemon juice and sugar. Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve hot. (Add more seasoning if you think it needs it). You can serve as a soup or over rice or quinoa.
Fable enjoys black-eyed peas with a side of rice, smart dogs and watermelon
And in honor of black-eyed peas in a black-out, a shout-out to my favorite BEP song. Not to mention, my favorite two peas in a pod: