lucky cabbage & black-eyed peas
In the local coffeehouse yesterday afternoon C____, who has travelled all over the world & worked more jobs than you could count, was dispensing advice for 2008. “Make sure you cook somethin' green between midnight tonight & tomorrow,” he said. “Got to have something green in the house. And whatever you do in that twenty-four hours, that’s what you gonna be doin’ all year. If you lay there watching TV, the rest of the year you won’ be able to get away from that TV set.” G___ had put money-tree pieces in his Christmas wreath & asked C___ if that would bring financial luck. “The money ain’t gonna just come to you—you got to DO somethin’—you got to go where the money is! Whether that’s playing the numbers or whatevah, you caint just expect the money to come to you,” C____ responded with the indignity of a man used to other people’s consistent deficiencies in wisdom.
To start off the new year in the spirit as C___, kookaburra suggests--no, commands--a meal of black-eyed peas, cornbread, & cabbage, & gives you the low-labor, low-on-technical-details way to do it.
If you have a roomy pan, buy the largest green cabbage in the store, because cooking reduces it by about a fourth of its original volume. Hallmarks of this dish: it’s simple, damn good, & there’s never enough. Cut up two or three medium-sized onions & begin to sauté them in olive oil as you slice the cabbage into big wedges (they’ll break apart easily as they simmer); season with black pepper, garlic, & a bit of salt. Add the cabbage when the onions have been acquainted with the heat for five or so minutes, then cover the pan & keep the stove on medium heat. Lift the lid & turn the mixture over periodically so that it browns evenly. It should take about an hour.
Black-eyed peas: also easy. Skip the dried bags & go for the canned (Goya are excellent). Again, onions are the base, and if you’re doing both cabbage & peas, slice twice as many onions at the start & just divide them—one half for each recipe. For color & flavor, chop red bell & Italian green peppers and sauté them with the onions. Add black pepper & garlic, plus something with a kick—hot Hungarian paprika or dried chili, for example—but no salt, as there is plenty in the canned peas already. Stir in the black-eyed peas once the onion & peppers are softened, then let it cook until it tastes good.
One caveat: you will smell like an onion restaurant for days. But perhaps that, too, could bring good fortune?
Lastly, do NOT even think about going for the boxes of Jiffy cornbread mix. No—make it from scratch; it’s worth the extra (but really minimal) effort. Indian Head stone ground yellow corn meal is a fine choice, & the recipe on back is as follows:
1 cup corn meal
1 cup sifted flour
¼ cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup soft shortening
1 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl. Cut in shortening. Mix egg & milk together and add with a few swift strokes. Bake in greased 9 x 9 x 2 pan for 20 to 25 minutes.
And a very happy new year to all.