This dish harks back to West Africa, where black-eyed peas, according to some culinary historians, were eaten prior to European arrival. Certainly for many African-Americans, black-eyed peas were, and are still, the staff of life. They turn up with rice in Hoppin' John, the traditional New Year's dish that has spread from South Carolina to the rest of the South; and they are often served at other times of the year as a main dish or vegetable.
This is a basic recipe. The black-eyed peas may also be cooked with a ham bone, a precooked ham hock, or with olive oil instead of bacon fat. This last sacrifices the traditional smoky taste to contemporary concerns about cholesterol, but whatever way black-eyed peas are served, they're delicious. Black-eyed peas can even be pickled, as in recipe Pickled Black Eyed Peas, which also goes by the name of Texas caviar.
The dish can be prepared with either cooked dried black-eyed peas, canned ones, or, if you are really lucky and live in an area where they can be obtained, with fresh ones.
May be prepared in 45 minutes or less. In a bowl combine black-eyed peas with water to cover and let stand overnight.
Drain peas and in a 4-quart saucepan, combine with water to cover by 2 inches. Add bacon fat and onion. Simmer mixture, covered, 30 to 40 minutes, or until peas are tender, and drain well, discarding onion.Servings: 8