The South's fingerprints are all over local New Year's Day brunch menus, with Local 360 serving up fried chicken with cheese grits (although the menu calls them "cheesy grits," a Mitt Romney locution rarely heard in Dixie); and ART offering biscuits and gravy. But local eaters seeking the region's most iconic New Year's dish may have to make their own black-eyed peas and collards.
A staple of Southern holiday brunching, black-eyed peas and collards are so popular in certain markets that newspapers remind their readers to buy ingredients before fellow shoppers clean out grocers' freezer cases. (With black-eyed pea season long over, even dedicated home cooks have no choice but to shortcut.)
Southerners cite two stories to explain the luck-bringing tradition, annually observed in bars with limited kitchens and at community events: Most commonly, folks say collards look like paper money and cow peas look like coins, so the dish ensures prosperity in the coming year. But a lesser-told legend revolves around Sherman's March, during which Union troops were rumored to have destroyed every crop fit for human consumption. Since black-eyed peas were considered animal feed, the U.S. soldiers left the plants for lucky survivors of the Civil War to eat.
In Seattle, collards are on the standing menu at Catfish Corner, but the soul food fixture serves red beans and rice instead of black-eyed peas. Newcomer Kickin' Boot Whiskey Kitchen offers greens, but it's also in the red bean camp.
"We'll ring in 2013 with our collards and bacon, green beans, and cornbread with bourbon honey-butter," says Kickin' Boot spokeswoman Madeline Scarp, adding that the restaurant's keeping New Year's Day hours. "Unfortunately, we've no plans for black-eyed peas this year, but our New Year's resolution is to offer more specials."
The Wandering Goose serves braised greens and Sea Island peas, which are generally considered interchangeable with black-eyed peas. But the restaurant's closed on New Year's Day, so believers would have to get their fix before lunch service ends today at 4 p.m.
Diners can find black-eyed peas and collards at The Kingfish Cafe, which this month introduced a Monday night ham hock special. The plate features both black-eyed peas and collards. But the restaurant's closed tomorrow, which leaves only Bitterroot BBQ as a New Year's Day black-eyed pea and collard source.
"We will be open for New Year's Day and we will be serving traditional black-eyed peas with greens and cornbread to encourage fortune in 2013 for all of our customers," says Bitterroot's co-owner Hannah Jo Carter, who adds that the restaurant's also catering, if the fortunes about which you care most belong to your favorite football team.