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Release date: 12/28/2004.

You'll find this recipe in it, From AN EXALTATION OF SOUPS,
copyright © 2004
by Patricia Solley,
Published by Three Rivers Press.

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Good Luck Soup

(U.S. South black-eyed pea soup)

Dear friends Maggie and Josie Owens contributed this excellent recipe and story from Josie's 1991 cookbook of the Junior League of Jackson, Mississippi. It notes: "Black-eyed peas (sometimes known as cowpeas) originated in Africa, though they've been fundamental to the Southern diet for at least three centuries. Southerns believe that those who eat black-eyed peas on New Year's Day will have good luck throughout the coming year. Good luck soup is best made a day ahead, and that will give you time to sit back and enjoy the holiday with friends. Serve with plenty of hot, buttered cornbread and your luck can only get better." In fact, the peas likely started life in China and were carried by Arab traders to Africa before making that transatlantic leap to the American south. The soup is excellent: smoky flavor punctuated by smooth beans, okra's silken crunch, and the bite of hot chilis. It's good luck...and good eating--any time of the year. Serve hot to 6-8 people.

In a large soup pot, combine the peas, stock, ham hock, ham cubes, onions, pepper, celery, garlic, and chili peppers. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low, re-cover the pot, and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

When the peas are tender, stir in the okra and salt to taste, bring back to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 30 more minutes. The soup should be thickening and you should stir it frequently to prevent scorching. Remove the cover and cook, stirring, until creamy thick--as much as 10 minutes.

If you are ready to serve, remove the ham hock and chilis and ladle into bowls. If you are saving to serve later, let cool in the pot, then refrigerate. Reheat carefully, stirring often, when preparing to serve.