Greens, Black-Eyed Peas and Cornbread

My family has eaten greens, black-eyed peas and cornbread on New Year's Day for as long as I can recall. I was told it was for good luck and prosperity in the New Year. Never questioned, just believed it was so. 

“Take one part European superstition, one part West African culinary memory, one part cultural exchange, combine in the antebellum South, and let simmer for a couple of centuries.” So, writes Adrian Miller, a James Beard award winning author. Miller is also the content creator behind Soul Food Scholar which you can follow on Facebook. His description seems apt as certain foods have transcended time and were enjoyed longer than we might have known.

Miller wrote an article in Garden and Gun magazine about Why Do We Eat Black Eyed Peas on New Year's Day? He shares his family recipe for black-eyed peas which I'll be making for New Year's. My sister insists you only need to eat a few spoonfuls, however, try telling that to someone who's hungry.

Also on our plates will be greens. As I select my greens, usually a combination of collard, mustard and turnip greens, I'm reminded of my mothers garden.

She grew collard greens late into the winter and could often be found tromping out into the snow in boots and digging up greens which she professed to be the sweetest when grown and harvested this way. Never argue with a southern Mama.


My sister prepares our collard greens at family Thanksgiving gatherings. And, she has her own style of doing greens. When I asked her about providing a recipe, she reminded me that YOU KNOW THERE'S NO RECIPE, PAT!!! Ok, but can you please provide instructions for people who've asked to prepare greens for the New Year? Here goes.

Susan is prepping greens before cooking 

Susans Greens

2 smoked turkey legs
4 cups of water
2-3 pounds of greens (mixed collard, mustard, turnip)
1 TB Salt
1 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes  
1 Tb fresh chopped parsley
1TB chopped fresh garlic
1/2 cup chopped yellow and red pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 TB sugar
1. In a large pot boil the turkey legs on slow for 45 minutes in 4 cups of water. You have to skim the foam from this broth at least twice. Remove legs from broth and take meat off the bone; rough chop it. Set aside. 
2. Wash the greens thoroughly to get out any sand and grit.  Drain greens and cut out the large ribs from each stem. Lay greens down, roll them up hotdog style and chop into long ribbons. This is chiffonade. Place greens in pot. Add salt, red pepper, sugar, parsley, garlic, peppers and onions. Add chopped meat to pot. Add enough water to pot to cover. Cook covered for 35-45 minutes at a slow simmer.
3. Turn off the heat and adjust the seasonings. Keep pot covered and let greens sit for a few minutes before serving. We eat with a few dashes of vinegar and hot sauce. 

Let’s talk cornbread. Scratch-made is my preference with fresh kernels of corn. I keep corn in my deep freezer which is harvested from local Ohio farms. My friend Wendy usually makes a run out to a local family owned farm called Szalays and picks up a carload of corn for friends. The corn is extraordinarily flavorful and is always a welcome treat when cooked into cornbread, corn chowder or creamed corn.

I’m partial to a recipe from Edna Lewis. Edna Lewis’ southern corn bread recipe is included in her “Morning-After-Hog-Butchering Breakfast” menu in ‘The Taste of Country Cooking’. It includes buttermilk which makes it moist and has no sugar.

Edna Lewis Cornbread

Make the cornbread in a cast iron skillet, loaf pan (as shown here) or as individual muffins. I will sometimes add a half cup of pureed sweet potatoes to the batter so another take on a yummy cornbread. This is always delicious and a must for New Years.

Cooks note: I'm using coarse yellow cornmeal from Anson Mills. Check out their recipe for black skillet cornbread.

As we wrap up another year, 2020, to be exact, I remain grateful. Adrian Miller sums it up nicely. Over the years, the promise of prosperity has been occasionally fulfilled. Yet I still endeavor to eat those lucky beans every year. For some reason, they always taste like hope. Pass me a plate, please.


Pat Bennett is the founder and President of Pat's Granola, a Cleveland based food company. Pat's Granola is sold online at and is also available at several Northeast Ohio businesses including:

Troubadour Coffee Roasters

Sports and Spine Physical Therapy

Local Flavors Shoppe

Rittman Orchards and Farm Market

Cleveland Hopkins International Airport

Locle Box

Market Wagon Northeast Ohio

Made Cleveland



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