Chevese Jones isn't fond of black-eyed peas. But once a year she'll choke down a mouthful.
Jan. 1 is the day, and superstition is the reason.
Southern tradition has it that black-eyed peas are lucky – more specifically, they are said to bring wealth in the coming year when eaten on New Year's Day.
Jones isn't from the South – she's a Californian. But her Louisiana born grandfather and/or grandmother from Oklahoma brought the tradition here. Monday found her at Jimmy's Soul Food & Hmong Cuisine in Del Paso Heights ordering up a traditional New Year's meal including black-eyed peas.
“It's a traditional thing in my family that I've grown up with, for wealth throughout the year, and I'm very superstitious,” Jones said.
Although the tradition has spread, black-eyed peas remain a niche offering. We managed to track them down at Jimmy's Soul Food and Hmong Cuisine, co-owned by Shin Thao, who said they are a normal part of the menu, not special for New Year's Day.
Soul food and Hmong cuisine might seem like an odd pairing, but there's a back story. Thao's aunt worked for Jimmy, the original owner, for many years, buying him out when he decided to sell. Thao and his brother purchased the store with his brother five years ago.
In all, Jimmy's has served the neighborhood for about 35 years, he said.
On Monday the deli-style venue was doing a brisk business with both new and return customers.
It was Regina McAllister's first visit, and in addition to black-eyed peas she ordered fried fish, cornbread and rice.
Her mother, from Shreveport, Louisiana, always served the dish on New Year's Day and that's where she picked up the tradition.
But unlike Jones, McAllister enjoys black-eyed peas.
In any case, a bite of something distasteful once a year seems a small price to pay for good fortune in the coming year.
That's like playing lotto – it only takes a dollar to win,” Jones said with a chuckle.