Turnip greens and black-eyed peas
Like Job who frequently offered burnt offerings up for every one of his children (just in case they had sinned), my mama did a similar service. Only it was on every New Year's Day. She supplied the turnip greens and black-eyed peas. For all of her children and her grandchildren. The black-eyed peas for health, and the turnip greens for prosperity.
We ate them. Of course, we ate them. Nobody cooked turnip greens and black-eyed peas like Mama. My sisters and I would eat double portions and laugh about how healthy and wealthy we would be in the upcoming year.
Lord-willing, Mama will turn 95 on Leap Year of 2015. She is in relatively good health except for the chronic pain she experiences in her arthritic, worn-out neck. And she is rich in all the things that matter in this world. Maybe there is something to that old wives' tale.
Don't get me wrong. Mama is a godly woman, not a superstitious one. She knows where her help comes from. But the turnip green/black-eyed pea duo was a tradition rooted in the very core of her. To break the tradition would somehow break faith with all southern cooks who had gone before her.
So now, Mama lives with me, and has passed the cooking pot baton and apron mantle to me whether I wanted it or not. So I opened the bag of pre-washed turnip greens. It was the best I could do. Not frozen ones, and certainly not canned ones. I took out a handful and covered them with water. Mama said to cook the whole bag.
"The WHOLE BAG? Mama, we don't need to eat that much." "They'll cook down," she told me patiently.
It must be so hard to give up yet another part of her independence. To see me botch the thing she used to be able to do with her eyes closed.
So I put the whole bag into the pot. And pressed them down. And covered them with water.
My husband came into the kitchen and saw the pot of turnip greens and the other one with black-eyed peas. His face fell, and he whispered when mama left the room. "Honey, what did I do wrong?" Not a serious question. He knows all about the New Year's Day tradition.
I laughed. "We are going to eat these. It will make us healthy and wealthy in 2015."
He shook his head and looked down at Sugar and Sassy. "You hear that? You're getting greens and peas for supper."
Bottom line. Mama wants turnips greens and black-eyed peas.
And I love her. And doing this for her gives me joy. (Which might mean more than health or wealth)