Q: While going to First Monday, in Canton, earlier this fall, we stopped and purchased East Texas purple hull peas (then in season) from a roadside farmers’ market. My question is whether or not these count for good luck, like black-eyed peas, if frozen and then cooked and eaten on New Year’s Day.
Mark Browning, via email
A: This is an excellent question, but before we get started, the Texanist is obliged to point out that First Monday Trade Days, in Canton, despite the name, is not actually open for trading on the first Monday of the month—or any Monday of any month—and is in fact open only on the Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday before the first Monday of the month. Now, let’s begin. The exact origins of the New Year’s Day black-eyed-pea-eating custom are about as hazy as the Texanist’s recollections of his performance in an impromptu twerking contest at a New Year’s Eve party last year. Some believe the ritual—which is practiced throughout the South—has its roots in the Civil War era, specifically General William Tecumseh Sherman’s infamous March to the Sea, in which the ransacking Union soldiers left most everything in their wake scorched except for the cowpeas (black-eyes and purple hulls are both cowpeas). Others think there is a relation to the Jewish tradition of consuming black-eyed peas on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year (disclosure: although the Texanist grew up in Temple, he is not Jewish). However it actually got started, one thing is certain: all partakers are united in the belief that the ingestion of these ignoble legumes on the first day of a new year will bring about good luck and prosperity during the subsequent twelve months. Whether or not the same good luck can be conjured by eating delicious East Texas purple hull peas in lieu of black-eyed peas is a subject sorely lacking in scientific study. Perhaps an experiment is in order. You are hereby enlisted to give your alternative peas a try this New Year’s Day and then report back to the Texanist on the afternoon of December 31 next year to let him know how 2014 went for you. The Texanist is no soothsayer, but he predicts that any difference in the lucky effects of the two peas will be negligible. Of course, to give that determination scientific validity, we’ll need to establish the baseline amount of luck you typically derive from New Year’s Day black-eyed peas. Assuming you do not have any historical data to use, it will be necessary for you to run the experiment with black-eyeds for several years following 2014, and then return to the purple hulls. And hell, since we’ll already have this thing going, why not try Texas cream peas the year after that? Or crowders. Or maybe black beans. It’s all in the name of science.
Q: I came across an article in the newspaper recently about the air travel industry that focused on the use of overhead storage bins. One guy quoted in the article mentioned that his job took him to Texas a few times a month and that on those trips he’d come across a number of Texans who used the overhead bins to stow their cowboy hats. The man seemed to think that this was a poor use of the space. I don’t have that man’s contact information, so let me ask you: What should I do with my hat when I’m on board an airplane?
Jack P. Carson, Houston
A: Ever since commercial airline companies had the bright idea of doing away with the forward and aft hat racks that used to reside in the cigarette-smoke-filled cabin, hatted Texans have had an extra wrinkle to consider when traveling by air. The high seat backs are not compatible with storing a hat on your own noggin, which would run afoul of indoor hat-wearing etiquette anyway. Tipping it down over your face in a classic napping-cowboy position or setting it on the fold-down tray is hard to manage with all the intra-cabin turbulence created by lavatory-bound passengers. And unless you happen to favor an undersized hat such as the one often seen on the cabeza of the Texanist’s favorite Mexican comedic actor, Cantinflas, the space beneath the seat in front of you is not really an option either. This leaves your lap, which might work on a short Amarillo to Midland flight but would, on any more sizable jaunt, put your hat at risk of having Bloody Mary and snack crumbs spilled all over it. That brings us to the overhead storage bin, a compartment whose design will certainly accommodate a fine 10X beaver or a favorite straw as well as it will a carry-on bag containing a cheap suit and a toiletry kit featuring an empty bottle of cologne and no toothpaste. Go ahead and put your hat in the storage bin. If, that is, there is still room after you get your saddle in there.
Q: My family and I recently hosted some out-of-state friends for a long weekend at our house. One morning around the breakfast table, there was considerable debate about what constituted the most authentic Texas breakfast. Everyone said breakfast tacos. I think it’s pecan pancakes. So is it pecan pancakes or breakfast tacos?
Sue Williams, Dallas
A: Breakfast time in Texas (one of the Texanist’s favorite times in Texas) has, much like the state itself, evolved over the years. Where it was once common for a Texan to nutritionally fortify himself for the long day ahead with a few stone-hard sourdough biscuits washed down with a pot of gritty, acidic cowboy coffee, today’s puredee Texan tends to greet the morning with tastier chuck options—including not just the hotcakes and tacos you mention but also migas, numerous varieties of pie, kolaches, and cheese grits. The Texanist has eaten all of these (occasionally in one sitting), but as to the question of which is the most prominent of the bunch, there is no debate. He suspects he has consumed somewhere in the neighborhood of a zillion breakfast tacos since last enjoying a tall stack of pecan pancakes. Really, when was the last time you saw a long line outside the pecan pancakería? The Texanist must rule in favor of the breakfast taco.
Q: Another deer season is upon us, and I could not let the occasion pass without getting something that has been bothering me my whole life off my chest. I hate my dad’s bland, mealy, and gamey venison sausage. There, I said it. For as long as I can remember (I’m 36 years old), he has been providing his family and friends with this inedible sausage made from his own secret recipe. My dad is in the roofing business; he’s no Emeril Lagasse. Typically, I hang on to the stuff until I get tired of it taking up most of the lower shelf in my freezer and then toss it in the garbage. It’s wrong, I know, but what else can I do? It would crush him if he knew any of this. Help.
A: The Texanist has never advised anyone to look a gift horse in the mouth, but he senses such a visceral disgust in your missive that he is considering an adjustment to the old adage. This is a gift horse of another color—and flavor. The problem of serial bad cookery by a family member can create a delicate situation for those who are subjected to the offending dishes most frequently. But by choking down these abominations with polite smiles, or silently tossing them in the garbage, the unlucky recipient is only perpetuating and even exacerbating the problem. Every time you thank your dad for the sausage and tell him how much you love it, you are emboldening him. He may even decide to expand his repertoire. What if, high on the positive feedback of his loved ones, he up and quits his roofing job to open a smokehouse? The time for a healthy dose of tough love is nigh. Gather the family and face him head-on. If things go well, he’ll see the error of his ways and find a new recipe. If things go poorly, on the other hand, he could become dejected. Either of these outcomes will likely put a stop to the bad sausage.