(Unless otherwise noted, the Kathryn Tucker Windham blog is written by her children, Ben Windham and Dilcy Windham Hilley.)
Though it’s not at all the season to talk about this, I’ve been thinking lately about my mother and her New Year’s Day party.
Every January 1st for at least 25 years, Mother opened her modest Selma home to anyone who wanted to come eat black-eyed peas and cornbread. (It is, of course, widely recognized that you must eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day in order to have good luck throughout the coming year.) People came in droves every year, lots of local friends and friends from all around the Southeast. Strangers came too, some, I believe, just to see what sort of person would invite the world to “Pea Eatin’,” as it came to be called.
Mother cooked peas and baked cornbread from dawn until around 1:00 in the afternoon when she figured that was enough. Her head was forever in the oven checking the doneness of the cornbread. If you wanted to visit with her, you had to do it in the kitchen.
She was particular about how she served her guests. Paper plates and plastic wear were out of the question. Mother had a rather large stash of mismatched, small china plates for the occasion, and we’d spend New Year’s Eve polishing silverware. Two of her closest friends were the kitchen helpers, hand washing the utensils to keep them in rotation, but it was too hard to keep up with plates too.
Mother’s solution was for me to be the dirty dishes runner. My job was to gather plates up as the guests finished their good luck peas, take them to my brother’s room, and put them under the bed! It was a clever and efficient means of keeping the kitchen free of clutter. And so like my mother.
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–Wayne Flynt, Professor Emeritus in the Department of History at Auburn University.
Dilcy Windham Hilley
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